I know that I'm dying, but I just don't know when. Some of you may be in a similar situation.
Today, in preparation for my untimely and unexpected death, I will ask my significant other to write my eulogy. A strange request, considering I am very much alive, with no known deadly disease or impending traumatic situation. It's also odd because I never plan ahead, except when driving and sometimes when cooking.
My lifelong desire to be understood by others used to consume me. Thankfully, I'm getting over that. Still, I have sometimes worried about who will speak at my funeral. Seriously. While sitting in deep thought at memorial services, listening intently to life stories told by loved ones, I've thought to myself: Now, who will tell the story of me? Who among my family and friends would convey to the world at large the all-important story of me? The importance of this became apparent to me recently, when I attended a service where the only family speaker was a small child. It was poignant, for sure, but a stark reminder of the contrast to other services I had attended, where lifelong friends or aged family members shared the impact this person's very existence had had upon them.
At a beautiful riverside service under the stateliest of oaks, I once watched a family of eight grown-up children eulogize their dear mother. As I watched them, one by one, it was overwhelming, the love that they all shared and the admiration they obviously felt for dearly departed mom. One by one, they each stood and told a tale through a different perspective, each a separate chapter of the book we came to know of her life. As the last child, a prolific and talented writer, finally took his turn, the mourners were ensconced by the scene and completely enraptured in the beauty of the life of this amazing woman, his mother. I left with the feeling that I had truly known her, though I had never been in her presence.
Knowing her children, though, it was apparent she was a special person; I had no idea the depth of this fact until I heard each of them speak that day. Not one child, not two, not three -- but each of the eight children stood, one by one, with tremendous poise and talent, to eulogize the woman responsible for each of their own lives. It's not uncommon in families to see the big brother or big sister, a designated family speaker, carry the burden of family spokesperson. Only one "head of household" to a family, please, in most homes. Yet, in this family, every adult child was clearly fully evolved, fully present in his or her own life and community, raising children, making a mark, passing on the lessons and values instilled by mom.
Words are valuable to me, and that is a part of who I am. Up to this point in my life, I don't know if that's been so obvious to my own family. The special man in my life now not only GETS ME but happens to be a talented writer and fearless speaker. Having passed life's halfway mark (the magic number which forces us to acknowledge our mortality), I've decided I better start planning for my eventual demise and hire him for the job of chief orator at my wake. (I'm also planning the menu, the music, and the guest list, but that's another story.)