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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Knowing the End From the Beginning

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Business guru Stephen Covey, in his famous book THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, encourages folks to imagine what people will say about them at their funerals. When you've thought of all the great observations you hope others will make about you once you're gone, then you can think of ways to become that great person everyone wants to eulogize.

It's a bit macabre, perhaps, to talk about death, and yet it is, as the poet says "the blight man was born for." (That's Gerard Manley Hopkins, if you care to look it up.) None of us gets a pass.

That said, I've had reason to think quite a bit about death lately. In the period of about six days, three men we knew well all passed on and a fourth had a health crisis that will take him from us soon. On the morning we buried one friend, I made note of some of the things people said about him.

For starts, there were several hundred people there; the chapel where the family held the service was full. I thought of the "no services" message I've seen in so many newspaper death notices and knew I'd hope to have a full building, just as Ralph did.

Four or five rows at the front were reserved for his family and eleven members of his family took part on the program, in addition to eleven more who served as pallbearers. I bore and raised a batch of children. I hope when my time comes there will be many close loved ones to see me off and to carry me there, just as there were for him.

People spoke of his loyalty, his humor, his warmth and love. They laughed about funny things he'd done and cried only about missing him. It's a sobering thing to think about the world going on without us in it. I can only hope that one day -- far, FAR into the future -- I will do as well as Ralph has done.

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