In her recent column in the Huffington Post, “Are You Living Your Eulogy or Your Resume?, Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington admonishes all of us to live our lives in a way that is mindful of what our eulogy will be; in fact, she thinks we should be keenly aware that “we are writing [our eulogy] each and every day” and that we have to make sure we are giving the eulogizer enough material to work with.
Huffington goes on to say that money, power, and accomplishment are not the true substance of the eulogy. She points out, instead, that lives are better judged by a “third metric” that “includes well-being, wisdom and the ability to wonder and give.” For example, she points out that you don’t hear the following in a eulogy:
●She didn’t have any real friends, but she had 600 Facebook friends and she dealt with every email in her inbox every night.
●He was proud that he never made it to one of his kid’s Little League games because he always wanted to go over those figures one more time
But I can’t help feeling that all this is raising the eulogy bar, promoting it as a new form of competition: how can I ensure that my eulogy will be better than yours? Must I be concerned on a daily basis about developing material for my eulogy so that I don’t have to settle for a so-so speech when I meet my maker? Really?
In so many aspects of life, the spontaneity has vanished. I’ve been told that a high school kid can’t just ask someone to the prom any more. He (or she) has to orchestrate the “ask” with flowers, a rehearsed speech, the obligatory pictures. You can’t just agree to get married, the way we did it in the sixties. You have to figure out some unique way to propose marriage: skywriting, billboards, rings in the mousse, etc. The actual wedding can’t just be about two people in love exchanging vows, it must be a piece of performance art that has to go viral to be considered a success.
These days, I guess we just can’t afford to leave our eulogy to chance. We have to unfailingly nurture our relationships with the people in our lives (maybe get an affidavit to that effect), while we are developing a cure for cancer, patenting an invention, establishing a nonprofit organization, and winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Not just because these are worthwhile objectives, but because we don’t want our eulogy to suck.
Here’s an excerpt from a poem by Jane Hirschfield called “It was Like this: You Were Happy” Could this be a eulogy?
It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.
Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons
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