What Will They Say?

IMG_4471Yesterday, I attended a beautiful and moving memorial service for the husband of a long-time family friend.  Afterwards, we all gathered at her brother’s house for some food and drinks, as is often the custom after such services, so that family and friends can comfort each other and share stories and memories about the one they have lost.  I’m sure most of us have been to several of these gatherings, but there was something especially touching about this one.  The toasts and tributes were so heartfelt, the memories were so special and the sense of loss so deep, that there was no doubt that my friend’s husband was not only a very special person, but was also dearly loved but all who knew him well.  Clearly, he had left a powerful legacy of goodness, tolerance, and love.

Afterwards, I couldn’t help but wonder how different our lives might be if we thought just a little bit more often about how people we will remember us after we are gone.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve attended a funeral or memorial service, people don’t really talk about the sort of things that seem so very important to us as we live our daily lives.  No one mentions what car the deceased drove, how much money he made, how she always looked ten years younger than her actual age, what advanced degrees he earned or what a prestigious job she held.  Sure, some of that information might make it into an obituary or be a part of the life story shared during the service, but when the time comes for people to share their own memories of their loved one, that’s not what they talk about at all.

In the personal tributes and toasts, people talk about the real gifts that their loved one gave them.  They talk about how he was always ready to listen to their problems, without judgement, and without jumping in to offer quick and easy advice.  They talk about how she always made time for them, no matter how hectic and stressful her life happened to be.  They talk about the good examples he set by the way he lived his life, or how she had the courage to follow her own dreams and encouraged others to do the same.  In short, they talk about the important things, and not the inconsequential stuff that occupies far too much of our attention.

I have always been taught not to worry about what people say about me (easier said than done), and I understand that is meant to be good advice about not letting other people’s opinions dictate how I live my life.  But I’m beginning to think that it’s a good idea to consider what people are going to say when I’m gone, and how they are going to remember me.  Am I a positive and encouraging influence on other people?  Am I helping others when they need it, and not just when it’s convenient for me?  Will anyone be able to say, honestly, that I left this world just a little bit better than I found it?

The beautiful tributes and heartfelt toasts I heard yesterday are the kind that can only be earned by living our lives as fully and compassionately as we possibly can.  And I can think of no better way to be remembered, and no better legacy to leave behind.

39 thoughts on “What Will They Say?

  1. Your words are so true. What we worry about on day-to-day basis isn’t what people will remember us by. It makes me think of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, although that’s a pretty drastic example. You’ve given me food for thought.

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  2. Beautiful and very thoughtful post, Ann. I don’t think we give this much thought until, as you say, were in situations that make us think about our own legacies.
    As for you, even though I only know you through your writings, I’m confident that when your time comes, the words that describe you will include compassion, sensitive, understanding, giving, honesty and family, among others. There will be no shortage of heartfelt speakers.
    But that’s well in the future…:)

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    • Thank you, George! It is odd how it takes something so big to hammer home the important lessons in life, isn’t it? And your words are too kind…which is why I am also sure that you will be remembered for your constant encouragement of others, your quick perception and compassion, your intelligence and sensitivity, your honesty, your sense of humor, and your love for your family. You are one of the bloggers whose opinion I value the most, even though I also only know you through your writings. But I do think that our writing reveals our core values, and honestly, what’s more important to know than that?

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  3. Oh Ann – what a thoughtful post. Your words here in this blog will be one of your legacies of the amazing woman you are! Keep on doing what you are doing. Do right by yourself and those around you, and you will be remembered as once who made the world a better place. I have no doubt.

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  4. That’s an excellent point, Ann. I guess it’s also true that getting heartfelt praise like that requires a long-term pattern of behavior. Doing something nice for somebody one time simply isn’t going to cut it. In other words, it’s not something we can easily fake. If we want people to think we’re nice, we actually have to try our best to be nice.

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  5. Bun’s expressed well the point I was going to make, Ann. I would only add that any kind of dissembling in our generosity, kindness and empathy is quite readily picked up by others, so it has to be authentic, meaning natural. Your friend’s husband was clearly one of the good ones, as I’m sure you are too. 🙂

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  6. I have often given thought to this as well Ann. It sounds like your friend was a wonderful person, touching lives in ways that matter most. Thank you for sharing this very insightful post & my condolences to your friend in losing her husband.

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  7. You are totally right, but I have to be a cynic here….how many funerals have you been to where they say bad things about the person who died? That would be kind of funny really wouldn’t it? Gee: Amy really was a selfish person who only thought about herself. She was divorced three times because she couldn’t make any marriage work, her kids were constantly pissed at her and friends wished she had spent more time with them. Her pets wondered why she hadn’t taken them on more walks and why the heck didn’t she do more with her life!! But by golly, she surely did have a crazy sense of humor for sure….sometimes a little dark, but hey, she was a bit of a nut! 🙂

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    • True, people don’t really say negative things at a memorial service (usually, anyway!), but the thoughts and emotions that were expressed at this one were very sincere, and that’s what made them so touching. And I’m betting that will be the same way people speak about you when you’re gone!


  8. What a wonderful life lesson to pass along, thank you!

    Interestingly, I had a bit of a thought-avalanche recently, and many of the points you raised today flooded my mind. In such instances when I am almost trance-like, I write. Whatever comes to mind, I write. The sentences don’t have to make sense, I just simply write. It’s as if I’m being cleansed. Perhaps the same feeling one gets after a good cry.

    Needless to say, many of my concerns of what the future would be like, are things over which I have no control. But that doesn’t stop my mind from running wildly as the avalanche picks up speed. 😁

    But you’re right right, the best we can do is live the best life we know how, loving and caring and simply being good human beings.

    Always a pleasure to stop by. Have a lovely day. Hugs ☺ 🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a beautiful post Ann and one that rang so true for me having only recently lost my own mum. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, it sounds as though he did indeed leave a beautiful and lasting legacy, and one that has nothing to do with material possessions but on what he offered the world. Thank you for writing this, you’ve always been such a kind and thoughtful person and I have little doubt you’ll also leave a wonderful positive legacy when your time comes. xo

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  10. Wise thoughts, Ann. For years, now, I’ve read through obituaries in the newspaper of people I don’t know, searching for words that explain what kind of person he or she was. Most of the obituaries either go on and on about the professional (successful) life of the person, OR they wax poetic about how extraordinary the person was to the nth degree so that it’s overdone and unbelievable. But in memorial services, the ‘real’ person is exposed in beautiful and telling ways. The attentive father he was, the nurturing mother she was, the kindness to a neighbor, the laughter she shared at parties, etc. These are the real ‘obituary’ of a person. May we live our lives gratefully, honestly, generously, and lovingly, so we can remain sweetly in the memories of others when we’re gone.

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    • You are so right…it’s what people actually say when we are gone that paints the true picture! My friend has lived in another country for many years, so I didn’t know her husband very well. But listening to the comments after his memorial service, there was no doubt about what a good person he was and how much he helped others. It was a great example for the rest of us! And thanks so much for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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