Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Visualizing Our Own Funeral

As a little boy, one of the taboo topics is to talk about our own funeral. The superstitious avoid them like a plague. The fearful cover their ears and many prefer simply NOT to talk about it. When an argument gets unruly, it is common to say nasty things to each other. Phrases like:
  • "Go to hell!"
  • "Get lost."
  • "Go and prepare for your own funeral!"
Telling people to go and end their life is perhaps one of the most disgusting things to say. Even today, it remains an avoided topic among many cultures to talk about death and dying.

Why Visualize?
The CEO of Thomas-Nelson, Michael Hyatt blogged about something I remember reading about many years ago. He asks the poignant question: "What Will They Say When You Are Dead?"

Eeek! That is gruesome, but is it out of touch with reality? No. There is a place. I believe that it is never too early to prepare for retirement. Likewise, it is never too ridiculous to talk about our funeral as well. This is how Hyatt justifies for the self-preparation. Firstly, he highlights Steven Covey's first habit of highly effective people. Hyatt calls this the ultimate 'end.'
"Begin with the end in mind."

Hyatt leads by example, saying that he tweaks his 'last words' every year about our own eulogy, and suggests the following 5 tips in writing them. Let me paraphrase them.
  1. Individual Time slotting ourselves a solid 4-hours of 'Me-Time' each year, that is, time alone with self.
  2. Look for a place where one is not distracted, preferably a place private and serene.
  3. Identify the list of people who means a lot in our lives;
  4. Imagine in our heads our own actual funeral;
  5. Think about what our loved ones will say about us;
  6. Make ourselves rethink our present lives in order to achieve what we want others to think about us;
  7. Planning our own funeral is a constructive way of living our present.
The last point of Hyatt's notes is an exceptionally practical one. This reminds me of kingdom living. Disciples of Christ need to learn to follow Jesus' footsteps. Remember how frequent Jesus talks about his own death? Even the disciples then were not able to accept that and the brash Peter even tries to protect Jesus from getting arrested.

Death is a very real thing. This truth is recently brought close to home with the passing of my father. During that time, there is simply so much to do, logistics and administration wise. If there is one thing certain about my own future, it is I will eventually die. This is why talking about funerals is increasingly not taboo, but necessary. If that is so, why not make the best of it?

What about my own obituary? For me, I suppose I need to spend some time to think about that. One thing is clear. Christ will be in it, and may my life reflect one of faithfulness to God, in wisdom and discernment. Perhaps there is something very positive about dying. It teaches us how to live better.

"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." (Mark Twain)


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