As many of you know, I am a pastor. A pastor is generally deeply involved in the big events of life: births, graduations, marriages, deaths. Not surprisingly, I have been dealing with a huge volume of deaths in the last year. Many of them were personal friends, and then there has been the staggering number of deaths of celebrities and people across the nation and the world. Perhaps it has been emotionally impacting to you. It certainly has been so to me. These deaths, particularly the up close and personal ones, have been draining emotionally and have had a sobering impact.
As a pastor I am often asked to lead a memorial service for the one who has died. I don’t want it to just be a ceremony. Every single person’s life is valuable, and I want it to be as personal and honoring as possible. I ask the family if they would be willing to share some things about the deceased. I say, “Tell me about your father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter.” I am consistently stunned at how many times there is so little information to share.
This season we have been in has caused me to spend even more time thinking about it. It has directed me personally to become even more focused on how I want to be remembered. The only time I have to influence how I am remembered is today. So I have had conversations with my wife, kids, friends, co-workers, and even a few random people to get a look at where I am and what needs to happen.
We all have a life story. We experience life-altering events: some big, some small, and many in-between. We change as a result. We’re the main character in our own life story. We don’t have the power to control where we were born, what family we were born into, and the many other details of our birth. However, at a very young age the pen is placed in our own hand. I am not only the main character in my story—I am the author of my story. I have full control of how I respond and navigate through the ups and downs, the wins and losses, the conflict within my story. I need to live so that there are no entire chapters of my life story I wish I could tear out or delete. I want to live so that the other characters in my life story love my story. As John Maxwell says, “True success is when the people who know you best love and respect you most.”
A number of years ago Stephen Covey wrote the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. One of his main points was that people who really thrive and win in life start with the end in mind. It’s fairly simple. Basically, write out what you most desire to be remembered by at your funeral. Think of what you would like your eulogy to be, and who you hope would respect you enough to deliver it. Let those thoughts serve as a compass for how you want to be remembered by those around you. It’s the way to build a legacy worth having.
A few of my core values are availability, generosity, kindness, integrity, and forgiveness. I have to make those the pillars of my actual daily life right now. If that’s the person I want my children to remember, that’s the person I must be right now. Consistently.
Here’s what I am doing. I am making my core values the filter through which I evaluate my days and my actions. I am making a renewed effort to have integrity in every area, aligned with the things I claim to value.
How about you?
As the wise say, “Live each day as if it were your last, for someday it will be.”