Funerals can be a time for reflection

I recently attended a celebration of life for an acquaintance. She was a lovely woman who lived a full life filled with family, close friends, travel, and lots of fun and adventure. 

She was also a very giving person. Her wish was for her friends to come and select things that had meaning to them from her possessions. Before and after her passing, her generosity to charitable organizations was remarkable. She made it a point of letting folks know, “You can’t take it with you.”

At the service, friends came to the podium to share stories of their deep friendship and times together. Her niece read from her aunt’s travel journals, detailing adventures from all over the world.

By all accounts this person led a good life, maybe even a great one.

Many times, after attending these types of events, I begin to reflect on my own life.

Is there something this person has done that I envy? Something that I should change in my life now if I want similar experiences.

In this particular instance, it seems as though my acquaintance fulfilled many of her goals, wishes and dreams.

I ask myself what dreams are still unfulfilled in my life.

If a funeral does one thing, it underscores that life is finite and there is limited time on this earth to achieve the things most important to us.

I have known since I was a teenager that a long life is not guaranteed. I was a very sick kid and spent a lot of time in the hospital with other very sick kids. Some who did not make it. In some ways, I think that propelled me toward work achievements. I longed to be that adult who had a great job and did big things, and I worked hard to make that happen.

But as a 65-year-old adult, reflecting on my dreams today, I know that my runway is much shorter than when I was a teenager. So, I tell myself, it’s more important now to figure out what those dreams are, and how I can make them happen.

Before attending college, when I was thinking about careers, I visualized myself carrying a briefcase, walking into businesses, and inspiring them to do something. A career in sales and marketing was born.

After caring for my elderly neighbors, I visualized helping others through similar situations with more information and confidence than I had. A nonprofit calling was born.

It seems like my visualization experiences, which are a great way to help achieve goals, were mainly career focused.

This recent celebration of life has underscored for me that it is important to visualize other avenues to happiness in my life.  My acquaintance had a great career, but that was not the focus of meaning in her life. It was friendship, adventure, and philanthropy.

My focus has always been on meaning and purpose in my life, forsaking happiness goals, because they seemed frivolous. 

Reflecting on the messages that came to me that day, I think I need to change some of my goals and dreams so that when I leave this earth, I will have achieved both meaning and happiness, or at least tried to.

My first order of business will be to rethink what brings me pleasure and joy, beyond my career, at this stage of my life. And then plan for ways to experience more of it.

I have achieved what my parents valued – hard work, caring for others and being an honorable person, but now it’s up to me to forge my path to personal happiness.

I have some hard work ahead of me, but if I am successful, I will be happy and content. And there is no better way to leave this earth.


Categories: End-of-LifeNumber of views: 297

Tags: funeral reflections

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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