Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Eavesdropping On Your Funeral


I have been contemplating my demise. Actually, I do it all the time. My professor told me to do it.

I guess I should clarify. I really have no intention of dying, at least not any time soon. (Insert sign of the cross, knock on wood, etc.)  But most of us feel that way. Unless we know it is inevitable, and someday it will be, we try not to think about it. That's why this exercise is so weird, I admit. But if you are working on those parts of yourself that need work (or healing), this a good exercise.

Lie on your back, in a quiet room, cross your hands over your chest and pretend you are dead. Everything is over. Relax, and clear your mind. Then envision yourself at your funeral. What are the people walking by saying?

The idea behind this exercise is not to be hard on yourself - and it's not a popularity contest - it doesn't matter how many people are at your funeral. If you don't have many people in your life, then use the people you come in contact with. Be totally honest with what you might be hearing. Were you a kind person? Happy? Sad? Honest? Charitable? Are people saying how much they will miss you? That your generosity of spirit will be missed? Are people saying that it is sad you are gone, but you really weren't a very good person. You were successful, but at the expense of others. Anyway, this is your funeral - you get to pick the conversations.

The point is to really look at where you are in your life. And maybe where you want to go for the rest of it. The impact that we have on others is very real and far-reaching. It's rippling effect is powerful.

We only get one shot at living. There isn't a second act. So be the person you want to be remembered for being. A life well lived.

63 comments:

Jill of All Trades said...

Oh wow. Great exercise. I think I will do this.

Cubil said...

Having attended the funeral of an old friend last week, and sitting with another friend who very nearly died, this subject has been on my mind in more than one context. http://desperatemusicans.blogspot.com/2009/04/oh-bury-me-now-on-lone-prairie.html is one of them

Frog said...

You have succesffuly provoked my thoughts good sir, very interesting post...I also noticed you are reading The tipping point and when things fall apart, which is funny because the title of both books were used by the group The Roots as album titles, anyway I enjoyed your blog and hope you check out mine TheFrogBlogg.blogspot.com...Anyway GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR BLOG, keep up the good work.

CrazyCris said...

I haven't ever thought of trying this... but I can imagine it pretty well! I know that if I died today I will have already led a rather full life, seen more than most people I know, and even though my "professional accomplishments" will be seen as somewhat lacking, I know several people whose lives are better because I was a part of them... and as far as I'm concerned that means my life has been a success.
Now I just have to figure out how to continue developing the professional aspects of my life! ;o)

Debbie V. said...

I've recently been impressed with the fact that our influence on others during our lifetime is more than we will ever know. It may just a casual remark by someone in passing. We are all connected, like the tapestry.
I think more about my own death, seeing as it is nearer time wise, and I am trying to make the best of what's left.
I don't attend funerals often, but most of the time I am inspired afterward.
Thanks for the reminder.

judemiller1 said...

I contemplate my funeral a lot also. I can actually see what I am dressed in and what I think the children's/grand children/friends reaction will be. So far...it looks pretty good :-)

Jeninacide said...

Hmm, a little morbid, but I can definitely see the underlying point of it. You do this all the time?

scarlethue said...

Interesting. I'm not afraid of my own death, not at all. But the death of my loved ones is my number one fear.

I think my friends would say they wish they knew me better. I'm so honest on my blog-- it's my number one goal, to remain completely honest to myself and my thoughts and my words. It has led me to some places I never thought I would go. But in real life, I always think before I speak, and I don't speak much, so I think people think of me more as a mystery than anything else. There are very, very few people who know the real me, through and through. It's kind of sad, now that I think about it, but I don't know how to change it, or if I'm brave enough to try.

Rose said...

I think this exercise is a bit morbid.

Practicing being a good person while you are alive is better than pretending to be dead and hear what people say about you.

Everyone can do something nice for others every day.

Hugs, Rose

Expat From Hell said...

Great and creative stuff, as usual. Thanks for posting this. I have gone through this exercise a number of times with great success and revelation. Usually when I have the flu. Fortunately, up to now, I have always recovered.

Bogey said...

A very thought provoking piece. I suppose it kind of reminds of the Christmas Carol in a way. Where good Ol'Scrooge has to come to grips with how people were actually seeing him. Fortunatly, for him, he was given a second chance, so to speak. Perhaps this can become a second chance as well if we think about this in an honest fashion. How have we treated those around us? Are we worthy of praise after our demise?

Joanne said...

An interesting introspective exercise. Valid, too, if it results in a life better lived!

Aly said...

This is a wonderful exercise. Now that times are hard, we seem to forget the little things that really matter. Our answer is always, I'll call tomorrow or stop to visit tomorrow, but the real question is, will tomorrow ever come?? Live every day as if it is your last. At my funeral I see people that we happy to know me and even happier knowing that I am in a better place.

Sae Han Park said...

um. I don't know what to say, but I just think that I want to be a person who would be remembered by my friends from all over the world, not even in Korea.:)

Kala Pohl Studio said...

Very interesting exercise. The older I get, the more I think about death. And not in a morbid way, just wondering about what is on the other side:) The legacy we leave behind is what it is all about, isn't it?:):) Love your blog.

SingleLady said...

Hey, as Billy Joel says, "Only the Good Die Young," so I obviously have nothing to worry about now.... just kidding(but I do love that song)!

That's a really cool exercise... it made me stop to think, "what was the last thing I did out of total selflessness?? what was the last thing i really did entirely for someone else?" it's these kinds of thoughts and actions that make the world a better place... slowly, but surely.

Butternut Squash said...

I have finally paid forward your gifts, and put a note back to you, with a couple of glowing words for your epitaph.

lakeviewer said...

Hi. I stopped in via Willow Manor and stayed to read your post. What an interesting exercise. I also liked the quote on the sidebar, the one about LIVING. Let's.

Jun Bullan said...

For me, I always do it and sometimes, I thought that I am actually overdoing it. Why should I always think of what other people would say at my funeral?
Although it maybe a good exercise, overdoing it, as I have found, may inhibit being myself. Be that as it may, I still consider the exercise worthwhile.

Glynn said...

Wow, what a fantastic idea! It certainly makes me think about the impression I'm creating anyway.

Just out of curiousity... What conversations did you hear???

I'm So Pretty said...

Great exercise. I don't usually do this on my own, but when I was sitting through my mom's memorial service, attended by so many people all of whom obviously adored her (with good reason), I remember thinking "wow, I'll never get to this - I'm so petty and shallow compared to Mom." LOL! And I seriously have tried to rectify that since then, but I often fall back on petty and shallow because it's easier.

Lover of Life said...

Hi everyone, this exercise is just one little way of getting in touch with the you that you really want to be. When I do it, which may be every few years, I'm not always happy with what I hear. Sometimes, the person I think I am is not really the person that is perceived by others. Trying to grow in a way that I can be proud of is something I work on periodically. I'm certainly no saint, and I don't want to be someone who is always second guessing myself. But on occasion, I need to step back and really try to be honest with myself and the legacy I want to leave behind.

Thanks for all of your great comments - I knew this one would be controversial.

Ruthibelle said...

Couldn't agree with you more if the words were coming out of my mouth. I agree wholeheartedly. Yes!! Life is meant to be lived, and you only get to live it one, so let's ALL make the very very BEST of the opportunity!

Periodic reflection is uber-important. You just have to stop and take stock every once in a while.

Nice post. Nicer post title :) Got me!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I had a professor that encouraged us to wear a blindfold and spend at least an hour trying to do our normal tasks around the house without being able to see. A real eye-opener, excuse the pun.

I have been to too many funerals of late to be brave enough to imagine my own. Too chicken at the time being.

Reya Mellicker said...

Anytime I think about dying, my acupuncturist does the most painful treatment.

Seriously though it does sound like an interesting experience. Creepy but interesting.

Hilary said...

Sounds like an interesting, introspective exercise.

Paige said...

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Paige said...

I enjoyed reading this.

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Marisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marisa said...

A very good excercise.. but it also reminded me that we shouldn't just live for appearances or other people. It doesn't matter how much money you have given to charity, or how sweet and nice you are as a person, if you haven't really *lived*.

Sometimes you have to be selfish to have the things you want it life.. to accomplish the things that make you happy. And the thing is - the people who accomplish most are usually the most remembered, respected etc. (Not to say that we should trample everyone on our way to greatness.) It's just.. people tend to be too modest or insecure to reach for what they really want in life.

California Girl said...

I have given this alot of thought. I want my funeral to be full of music and laughter. I want photos of me and my friends at all ages to play on a screen. I want Earth Wind & fire played at my wake, along with Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, the 4 Tops, Aretha, Ricki Lee Jones, the Boss and more. "September" by EWF is my favorite song and I want that played over and over til everyone can only associate it with me. I don't want anyone crying; only telling the stories about me that are funny. Even the barfing ones from high school. I will be totally pissed if people don't laugh and at and with my memory. But, don't get me wrong...I'm not ready yet.

Da Jazzster! said...

Umm I don't think I qill do that ! I will just...think of it when I'm sleeping =]

Sarah said...

Sounds like something I need, I'm doing this just after I comment!

Sarah

Natalie said...

Hi LOL! I am going to be really annoying with this one. A lady I knew, led an exemplary life in every way. She was a profoundly good person, and yet her funeral didn't illustrate who she was at all! She had outlived many, or people couldn't make the journey to attend or couldn't get off work etc. It made me realise just how we (as humans) just have no control over anything really.Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I thought it relevant to the discussion.xx♥

willow said...

I think it is very healthy to take a step back and look at yourself objectively, how others see you, and what they would think of you if you were gone. Very powerful and thought provoking!

Camouflage Gurl! said...

I've always been scared of imagining this or simply thinking about it. I'm not sure I'm completely satisfy with the life I'm living, because if I don't know myself then no one knows the real me. I'm a fake and I don't know how to right this wrong. I want a better ending and goodbye when it all comes to an ending.

ellen abbott said...

I don't need to imagine my funeral...I already know how lacking I am. All I have to do is look at my friends. I wish I was a generous and thoughtful as my friend Kathy. I wish I was as loving and accepting as my friend Jennifer. I wish I was generous to a fault. I wish I didn't do many things. I am trying to improve. But I am honest to the point of bluntness and often drive people away after several years.

Brenda Susan said...

Very good exercise. I heard someone the other day say that we ought to imagine or write what we would love to hear about ourselves at our funeral....then work back from there to make it happen.

E.June said...

You really open my mind, i never thought of this before. I have attend several funerals but all i think is how short the life is.

susan said...

I've made a practice of dying a little every day.

LovesButterflies said...

I'm amazed how many folks have not thought of their own death, it's going to happen for sure, just a matter of when. For the time being, be busy with living life to the fullest and enjoying it to the last drop.

Let us all search our souls to be a better person especially to the ones we (say we) love.

Space Mountain Man said...

That is where you are wrong. I think about dying all the time because honestly at any moment my fish tank of a helmet could crack at any moment and I'd be straight up dead.

Beetle said...

Leaving a job after several years can be equally revealing. Most of your colleagues will never see you again. They are free to reveal in subtle ways how you appeared to them. Some may have a drink at your expense and raise a glass to your departure. Others may shed a quiet tear.
I don't recommend being carted out in a coffin. But it would certainly be memorable.

Queen Bead said...

Such a short time to be here and a long long time to be gone!!

Whinja Turtle said...

Very interesting. I am a bit of a second guesser.Still I think it is good to self appraise now and then. :)

Thinktank said...

Interesting and thought-provoking.Imagining what people comprising your near and dear ones would talk about you when you are not listening gives an insight into your own psyche.

Leah J. Utas said...

Excellent way to do a self-assessment.

lifeinblackandwhite said...

Wow. I just thought about this, and I really have no idea what to think of what people would say. I'm in the midst of changing myself for the better, I guess there are a few things that need tweaking still. Thanks for a wonderful post.

Needlewoman B. said...

i can't decide whether this is a good idea to try or not...judging by the amount of knots in my stomach just thinking about it, it's probably something i won't do...at least not today. today i'm feeling pulled in every direction by things that need to get done and people who need them...HOWEVER, just off the top of my head, if it's possible to be truly honest with oneself in such an exercise, it could be very informative. i suppose it's another way to stand next to a personal yardstick and assess one's progress toward being whole. and that, to me, is a good thing.

liZZie said...

Tried it a little bit, cried a little bit and it's whacked me into being bigger on life so thanks. Mission accomplished I reckon, but it's a sad one, very sad. I just want to implode when my time is up and not bother anyone!

XL Pharmacy Health News said...

I've taught yoga for over five years sounds a bit like what I do at the end of my class...total mind body out of the world control.

Nean said...

dear lover of Life, I have to say that I truely enjoyed reading your blog and I do plan on doing the exercise you suggested. And if you dont mind Id like to blog my response. If its okay with you I would also like to use your name and your blog in my respnse blog.

Awbria said...

Wow it is so weird that you wrote about this because I was just thinking last night how my biggest fear is death and how that should be something I write about. I think of dying often and the fear paralyzes me probally because it is the fear of leaving my children and husband behind and I just can't imagine. I really enjoyed this exercise and found it almost "fate" that I read this today. Thank you

Waman Parulekar said...

nice blog sir.
I will read ur blog tonight..

keep it up..

- Waman ,India

Mental P Mama said...

What a wonderful meditation. I am going to do this as soon as my house is empty later today.

JMG said...

Yep, mediation on our mortality is a really good way of understanding the important things in life, the Buddhists have been at it for quite a while.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratna/wheel102.html

Heres a peom you might like by James Shirley....

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armor against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings.
Scepter and crown
Must tumble down
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field
And plant fresh laurels where they kill,
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
They tame but one another still.
Early or late
They stoop to fate
And must give up their murmuring breath,
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds;
Upon death’s purple altar now
See where the victor-victim bleeds.
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

Tish Tisherman said...

Really interesting idea. I'm mourning a dear friend who passed away last week. Her memorial is this coming weekend. As this is the first time a "peer" has died, rather than a parent, grandparent, etc. it's caused me to take a look at my mortality. I don't fear death - it's the pain of dying in an inhuman way that has me scared. Of course, I know I'll be back in the next life as someone terrific. Perhaps that's what I'll think about while doing this exercise.

Valerie said...

I was asking myself this very question (in my journal) the other day, because, we are all going to die...and what is the purpose of each (my) life? Thinking, if I were gone, an apartment would become available, a new job for someone else to take over...and what else? Where else do we leave our mark? I ask myself often, and Thank You for the exercise, I will definately try it.

Anjy said...

i really liked it..your passion for writing shows in your blog.That has been very inspiring as I plan to start blogging too..

Lynn said...

I'm doing something sort of similar. My therapist gave me a list to give to a couple of people who know me well. It is a list of good qualities. Their job is to circle qualities they find in me. Then I have my own list to circle things about myself. Then the therapist gets her turn. It can be a real eye opener. Haven't turned the papers in yet, but I do so today. Hmmmmm. Gives you an idea what you project to the outside world. I am going to mention your exercise and try it myself. Follwing your blog regularly.

Pyzahn said...

Whew. I got dizzy scrolling down through all those comments.

Well, it's obviously by the number of folks who read/respond to your blog that you have already made quite an impact on the world.

I had a involuntary shudder as I read the proposed exercise. I don't think that was a good response. I probably need to revisit my own ripple effect.

Thanks for the eye opener.

gayle said...

I agree with the comment WOW. Both my parents have died and they will always be remembered, not only by me but by others too, as the most loving and caring people. I guess I need to try harder so I will be thought of in the same way when I am gone.

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