Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Have You Ever Thought About Your Eulogy?

            One of the biggest things that bothers me about the idea of being dead someday, from a perspective of someone who doesn’t believe in an afterlife, is all the stuff I will never get to know. The thought of actually being dead doesn’t bother me all that much, though the process of dying seems a bit scary. But the big thing that looms in my thoughts is that I won’t ever get to know “the rest of the story.” I won’t know how my children or grandchildren, or my wife should she outlive me, get on without me. I won’t get to know whether my descendants continue on or what their lives will be like. I won’t know whether we, the collective human race, finally get off this planet, or whether we manage to solve any of our vast array of remaining problems. I just won’t get to know, and that’s kind of frustrating.

            And I won’t get to know about my eulogy.

            That may seem like a weird thing to think about. Considering the huge amount of much more important stuff I could fret over, why worry about that one little speech about one insignificant person? Isn’t it a tad self-absorbed to dwell on that?

            Well, yeah, it probably is a tad self-absorbed. But I never claimed that I wasn’t.

            As for why I should even care, well, I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s because it’s very likely to be the only speech anyone ever gives about me, and I will never hear it or know its contents. I won’t know who actually makes the speech, or how it is received. I’ve said before that I don’t believe that the meaning of my life will ever be something objectively known or even knowable, nor would I want it to be. And I stand by that. But on the occasion of my eulogy, someone will be trying to express to a roomful of people who knew me what my life meant to them. At a time when I will have done all that I will ever do, said all that I will ever say, held all whom I will ever hold, and learned all that I will ever learn, someone will be looking back on the sum total of my existence and trying to put into words what effect it has had on them for better or for worse. I think that would be a pretty powerful thing to know.

            But I won’t know. I’ll be gone. The best I can do is hope.

            I can hope that whoever has to stand up and give that speech will be someone who I loved, and who knows that I loved them. I can hope that they will be able to say, in all honesty, that their life is better for having known me than it would have been if they hadn’t. I can hope that they learned something from me, and can say that they taught me something in return. I can hope they have stories to tell of the life we shared, and that those will bring the speaker and those who hear them some measure of joy. And I can hope that their life goes on long afterwards, a little richer for my contribution, and giving richness of their own to those with whom they share their lives.

            I won’t know, and I can’t say that I’m thrilled about that. But I think that if - when my time comes - that hope remains intact, then it will be OK.

No comments:

Post a Comment