Eulogy: An Invitation to Edit
“Have you ever thought about writing your own eulogy?”
This wasn’t the first time I had heard the suggestion. I shrugged it off assuming I already grasped the point of the exercise: sit down and write out what you want people to say about you when you die. Define your values and then figure out the steps you need to live with greater purpose and clarity.
It couldn’t be that hard, right?
Maybe it was the heaviness of this year: all the loss, heartache, and uncertainty, but the exercise was especially poignant and more difficult than I imagined. It nagged at me all week as the deadline loomed. I couldn’t figure out how to start it, or what the “right” format was. It felt a little icky, like when you write your own bio: was it too boastful, indulgent, egotistical?
Not one to miss an assignment, I waited until I couldn’t put it off anymore. I sat down at my laptop, closed my eyes, and imagined a room full of the people I love. I could see my children sitting in the front row with tear stained cheeks and peaceful grins. What would I want them to hear about their Mom? Suddenly, it all came pouring out.
As I read through it afterwards, I was struck by three simple truths:
The person I am most aspiring to become should be ME! This exercise made my future self the goal, which felt both radical and transformative. Other people can certainly be a wonderful source of wisdom to shape our journey, but too often we look outside of ourselves for inspirational examples and approval. This challenged me to stop comparing myself to others or using external benchmarks for success, and instead measure my actions, decisions, and relationships against the best version of myself.
How we see ourselves is how we see the world. One of the strongest themes throughout was the importance of constant progress over the quest for the “right” answers and absolutes. So much of our current strife and division seems rooted in glorification of our past and focused on maintaining the status quo. But, if we see ourselves as works in progress, it follows that so too is our society. As citizens, it is our job then to constantly critique, advocate, and push for a world that embodies ideals of empathy, liberty, and justice for all.
I am giving away too much time and energy to people and places that don’t align with my value system. The eulogy didn’t mention titles or achievements (or number of social media followers). Instead, it focused on my family, meaningful relationships, and true connection. It spoke of how I showed up in my community and fought for issues like equity, inclusion, and justice. Taking the time to step back and envision my life made it clear how even seemingly insignificant habits become a slippery slope and can easily take me off track. Small changes, like even just a few days away from social media, have already helped me feel more connected to myself again -- more present and calm. I had a fear that I might miss something important with all the constant chaos and breaking news, or that I would be hiding my head in the sand and staying in my bubble. But, breaking free from the never-ending loop of negativity and fear-based opinions has given me more time to read, to hear my own thoughts, and focus my efforts for greater impact.
When I finally submitted the assignment, the title came through as “Eulogy: Invitation to Edit.” It felt a little cheeky, like the last-ditch effort to hit me over the head with the lesson in case I was still too flippant. Of course, it had become too obvious to miss. What a gift to have a forward-looking blueprint, to live whatever time I have left with more authenticity and purpose. I wish that for my world, too -- that through the hard inner-work of evolving and becoming our highest and best versions of ourselves, that we would reshape the world around us. That we would not see this as a burden or an inconvenience, but as our greatest blessing and responsibility, for ourselves and each other.
So I ask you, have you ever thought about writing your own eulogy?
"For us to transform as a society, we have to allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals. And for us to be transformed as individuals, we have to allow for the incompleteness of any truths and a real forgiveness for the complexity of human beings." ~ Rev. angel Kyodo williams