Charity should begin at home, but should not stay there. ~ Philip Brooks
You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. ~ Anonymous
A good laugh is sunshine in the house. ~ William Makepeace Thackeray
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WHAT’S YOUR STORY?
I love eulogies. Don’t get me wrong, folks, I don’t enjoy saying goodbye to friends or loved ones; I grieve with the loss just as everyone else does. But I always feel better after hearing the final eulogy. It’s like a summary of their lives. It brings about an appreciation of what we are losing, as well as what legacy they leave to those of us that they leave behind. It is like hearing the final chapter of a good story about a good person.
People often ask me where I get the inspiration for my stories and editorials. I get them from people. Real, live people. Everyone has a story, even if they don’t recognize the story within themselves. Every story begins with a first breath and ends with a final breath. We don’t control that. It’s all the breaths in between that make each of us have different content within the chapters of our lives. That… we control.
I had a business professor once tell me that no one should ever go into a business without knowing how they would get out of it. Essentially, he was trying to make his students understand that no business can last forever if you didn’t plan for your own exit. He actually made his students plan their exit and work backwards. This forced his students to plan. It forced them to insert certain actions and or strategies to ensure the outcome they had already committed themselves to. It forced them to acknowledge the fact that, if they did not share their experiences with someone else and did not mentor others along the way, that their business would die with them and there would be no legacy of that business beyond their own final breaths.
I believe we should insert that same strategy within our own lives. I think we should all take time to sit back and write the final passage of our own individual stories. What do we want our ending to look like? What do we want our personal legacy to be? What do we want to be remembered for? By knowing what we want our final chapter to look like, we can then work backwards and decide how we should live so as to ensure the outcome that we want.
If we see ourselves living well into our golden years, we know that we must plan and save so as to pay for those years. If our desire is to travel, then we must plan for those monies to be available as well. If we hope to be the favorite grandparent, then we must ensure we have excellent relationships with our children so as to ensure that they desire visiting often, and that we are welcome in their homes. If we see ourselves as future mentors, sharing our wisdom learned through experience with younger generations, then we must acknowledge and make note of those experiences, both bad and good.
Not everything will go according to the script we write for ourselves. There will be unexpected plot twists as we try to bring each chapter to fruition. There will, no doubt, be unplanned obstacles and hardships endured. But by knowing how we want our next chapter to read, we can adjust accordingly. We can alter the rest of the script to ensure the ending we desire.
Here’s a challenge to our readers; take the time to write your own eulogy. I’m assuming that no one would write, “He was a bitter old coot with a mean streak” or “She was the most unpleasant woman to deal with and impossible to please”. Because that’s not how most of us would want to be remembered. If we want our eulogy to read, “He was a kind and generous man” or “She was a well-respected woman who always handled herself with grace”, then we know to work backwards from our desired ending and act appropriately. If we want to be remembered as kind, then the chapters before our ending should be filled with acts of kindness. If we want to be remembered for our generosity, then the chapters of our lives should be filled with instances of lending a helping hand when needed and sharing our time with others.
No one is too young to write their own ending. In fact, if most of us had done so in our youth, perhaps we would have avoided many poor choices along the way as we each live the story that is our lives. For those of us who may not be particularly proud of past chapters, the good news is that we can all begin the next chapter anytime we want. We can all have the desired ending by taking the opportunity of adjusting the future passages of our lives. Everyone loves a happy ending.