A couple of days ago I buried my father.
It’s the most horrible experience of my life and I wish only that no-one else has to ever go through it.
But we all do. That’s the sad part.
There is no other relationship like it in your life and I can’t imagine another that would compare, perhaps unless I’m a father one day.
It fell to me to give some sort of eulogy at the funeral service. We stood together, all the siblings, to pay our respects and I spoke on their behalf about the dad we had.
I’m not going to put into this post what I said, but I’m going to put down the main thrust I wanted to share at the time: our immortality.
When someone close to us dies we’re naturally forced to consider our mortality.
With my dad’s passing, and given something my sister wrote on her facebook, I got to thinking of our immortality.
Death and our immortality
Leading up to the day, I was reminded repeatedly about how we were going to pay our respects to our dad – that it’s all about him, not about us.
I don’t agree with that anymore.
It is all about me! It’s all about you too. It’s about us all.
The reality is that he’s gone.
But then he’s not.
He touched so many people in his life – it was incredible – and the comments from people I received on the day confirmed this.
And that’s what he is now – the collection of memories that are shared by all of us who knew him. If we didn’t have any memories or we weren’t touched by his life, then he really would be gone.
But we do have those memories.
We were touched by his life and who he was. Each of us in our own way. And through his influence he lives on.
There’s no way to convey how he has shaped who I am today. I can only hope that I adequately represent who he was.
A moral compass
When I wonder about the right way to be, to act, to respond, I consider what dad would think of my actions.
We were different people, he and I, and we didn’t always have the same values. But considering what he would have thought of me always kept me right.
There have been times, many of them, where I haven’t considered what his opinion might be. These would rarely turn out for the best.
I tried to share this idea of immortality to the people gathered that day… the idea that in all things we have a choice to do what is right, or do what is wrong.
Are we reflected positively in the lives of our children, in the lives of our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our lovers? Will we live on after we’re gone, leaving a positive impression on the people we touched? Or are there more than a few lingering bitter tastes…
Will we live on in the hearts of our loved ones as someone who has influenced them for the better, or will we leave behind resentment and hurt?
Do we inspire others to do what is right?
There are many ways to slice this question to get the same thing.
Obviously we want to be remembered in a good light, but that doesn’t happen all by itself.
One thing my sister wrote of my dad was that “no-one ever had a bad word to say…” and it summed it all up nicely.
For a few days, weeks, months, or however long we can maintain it, if we could only try to be that person for others… that person who no-one has a bad word to say about.
Imagine you inspired your friends and especially people you don’t know by your presence, that instead of leaving behind resentment, they’ll comment on your positive attitude, how you helped them in some way.
I would hope that with leaving this impression on the people I touch, that they too would go on to reflect it on the people they connect with.
And so on and so forth.
If we can each make the effort to do this, the influence of one man that did this by default of his nature would be huge. I can think of no greater legacy for someone to leave behind.
We don’t always get it right, but what if we try?
I can only hope that as I live I represent who he was and that for everyone who doesn’t have a bad word to say about me, it reflects who my dad was and how he lived.
I’ll leave this with one final question and one suggestion:
If you were to pass away today, will you be remembered by the people you love how you’d like to be? If not, do what you must to ensure you are.
If you haven’t spoken to your dad for a while, call him today.