The worst fate of a eulogy in my opinion? Waiting until the final act to realize that you are the heroine of this fairy tale. Enter the living eulogy.
I stumbled across an article about living eulogies early in 2017 when contemplating the deep and ominous topic of “What is my purpose?” Over the following months, I periodically jotted notes about what I hoped my eulogy might say but never did the hard work of actually writing it. Unsuspectingly, the little nudge I needed to put pen to paper was the grandma in the music video for Macklemore’s Glorious (my theme song for 2018) who when asked what she wants to do that day to celebrate her 100th birthday, responds, “Anything? God, I want to do it all.”
Writing your “living eulogy” may seem like an exercise destined for the extreme narcissists in the world but it’s actually a powerful tool for reflection. I don’t blame you for (secretly) wanting to avoid it. It’s hard and who wants to think about death? In the Western world, we hide from death, seeing our impermanence is a bad thing. However, in taking a moment to pause, we can live vicariously through our own imagined life and gain a huge dose of perspective. After all, we’ve all probably noticed that when people die, their eulogies celebrate life very differently from the way we define success in our everyday existence? At a funeral, it would be tragic if you heard:
For those of us in the middle, we can often forget our legacy begins now. Think about it. How would you like to be remembered? And then imagine waking up with this thought every morning. Would you live your life differently? With that prodding elbow in the ribs from the afterlife, it’s easy to see that the memories you built in their lives will foremost in the minds of the people you care.
These days, I’m pretty confident in the essence of my being-ness and my process of becoming (since I know the hard work is not done yet!). If I had to describe my life just one line, my OKC dating profile probably states it most succinctly: “I aspire to be the kind of person Mr. Rogers would be proud to call his neighbour. Some days, I succeed.” That said, my success is fleeting and I too have found myself relapsing into perfectionism or playing toxic games of one-up-man at high school reunions, or even falling into an unexamined pattern of attempting to keep up with the Jones in the daily rat race. I believe everyone finds it difficult to admit we time was wasted chasing the wrong things so I try to be gentle with myself when I notice I've lost the plot or if I’m writing someone else’s bestseller. However, when I wrote the line in my eulogy that said “Andi inspired others to live colourful and creative lives, one perfectly suited to them and no one else,” it was a great reminder to continually redefine success on my own terms - beyond money, power, prestige, the number of countries visited or picture-perfect Facebook relationship status updates. Like a library, there are many genres to choose from, many ways to define a meaningful life and for me, my current terms for success are warmth, well-being, wisdom and wonder.
As my keyboard clacked, tears streamed down my face while I imagined my own death (timely I hope). In writing, it was evident that there are many loose threads to tug when I think of what the future looks like. It’s hard to imagine the decades ahead when I can barely imagine months from now. Writing examples of things I may do in the next year or two came easily, but I struggled expressing, or even imagining, what other things will I have done by the time I’m 60, 70, or 80 – perhaps even ones that I have not expressed any interest in to date? Not to mention, how do you foreshadow the surprise twists of fate of your real-time Choose Your Own Adventure novel?
Undeniably, there are also make some “decisions” about how my life unfolds or at least what I hope would unfold. The weightiest example? I am still undecided if I include a line addressing my future children or offer commentary on how I showed up as a wife or mother in my eulogy. While my living eulogy is just a reflective exercise, both inclusion and omission about these areas of life feel like they make an implicit statement about what I want, and I was suspicious that the cosmic storyteller may read too much into it either way. For now, I will think of my eulogy being the teaser on the inside jacket, only meant to hook the reader not give away the entire story so you will just have to wait and see.
The act of writing my living eulogy gave me conviction that the Chronicles of Andi may in fact become a page-turner than you hide under the covers with a flashlight to read or a series of lyric slam poems read artfully to flowing rhythmic beat... who really knows where in the library of human lives it will be categorized. But the clarity that emerged instills in me the urgency to follow my heart and put one foot in front of the other towards my goals and dreams... you know, doing more things like this crazy sabbatical but also appreciating the beautiful moments in life when we live small... and the whole gamut of things in between that make us feel glorious at 100 years old.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
- Oscar Wilde
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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