As per the usual, there was a eulogy spoken, reflecting the life this lovely woman had lived. And, over and over, the priest presiding over the services kept using one phrase in particular. “Hers was a great life.” And he was right. I had the honor or sharing in that life. It really was great. And looking around at all the tearful people who loved her, there is no doubt she left behind an amazing legacy.
But here’s the thing about that great life and that amazing legacy – throughout the entire eulogy, I never once heard anyone talk about how much money Jane made or how many promotions she got. Nobody mentioned her investment portfolio, what kind of GPA she pulled down or how many exotic vacations she took. It never dawned on that priest to recall who she voted for or what her view of the socio-economic political climate was.
Could it be that after all our fussing over these supposed benchmarks of success, such things are really not what make a person or a life or a legacy great?
Because the things that were remembered – that brought tears of joy and sadness to the eyes of the people in that church – were of a different caliber completely. Things like how freaking awesome her homemade brownies were. How in her view, a good book always trumped a pile of laundry. How much she loved her husband, her daughters, a cold Budweiser and the annual Fourth of July picnic. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the priest recounted how she would always, always greet her family with the phrase, “Look how beautiful you are.”
These small, seemingly insignificant things, in the end, were the ones that mattered.
And that notion, I must admit, has got me thinking that there is a very good chance we good people of the Earth have taken our eyes off the ball.
Does it really matter if a fifth grader gets a D on a homework assignment? Is the world going to implode if we all don’t actualize ripped abs or own our own homes? Will it be written on my tombstone that I never ran a marathon? Does it matter with whom we find love or just that we find it? Will the people I love feel any less loved when I die if my portfolio isn’t diversified? (Those of you who know and love me may be asking, “What portfolio?” Just hush, I’m making a point.)
And that point is this: Promotions. Portfolios. Bank balances. Designer dresses. Corner offices. Red states. Blue states. Test scores. Football scores. Settling scores. These are not the things that eulogies are made of.
In the end, as far as I can tell, it’s the ordinary, everyday moments that we look back on with such fondness. In keeping with the odd sense of humor life seems to have, it appears that it is our little quirks, not our big accomplishments, that wiggle their way into the tender, eternal memory of the heart.
And if that’s the case, then at the risk of oversimplifying, may I just say: Phew. Pressure is off. I’m going to take a little break from chasing the cultural carrot of success that is always beckoning me to move faster, do more, have more, be more.
You know what I’m going to strive to be instead of more? I’m going to strive to be myself. Quirks and all. I’m going to live and love as I am innately equipped to do.
And in the end, I hope with all my heart that whoever speaks my eulogy mentions things like my ability to listen. My willingness to support. My gift of resiliency and how many times I have been able to put a smile on the face of another. I hope the little cards and personal notes I write get as much play as the best selling books. (Stay tuned; those are coming.) I pray that when it’s all said and done, I am remembered for what I have given, not what I have saved.
Sure, those little things might be ordinary. But guess what? They are also extraordinary. They define a life, how could they not be?
© 2002, The Book Of Duh, Merry Carole Powers and Sarah Lorraine Feit