December and January for some reason have become months of funerals and anniversaries of deaths of friends and family members. My dad passed away several years ago in December, my brother-in-law just passed this month, and at the end of the month my mom will have been gone for over a decade.
Funerals are a strange phenomena sometimes. You find family members getting together and repeating the same words they spoke at the last funeral – “We need to keep in touch!”, “Why do we wait so long to get together?” and “Why does it always take a funeral to bring us closer?” After the services, when the crying is done, the hugs are given and the reception food eaten, we go back to the same old routine and just ignore our family and friends. I am not being critical, I am just making an observation of things as I have seen them over the last few years.
A lot of time is spent at funerals talking about what a good person the deceased was in their life, and the difference that they made in people’s lives. Some people call it a person’s legacy. At a few of the funerals I helped put together video tributes to the loved one that helps bring back some great memories. It got me to thinking, what is my legacy going to be? What difference have I made in people’s lives? If they held my funeral would they need a larger facility or could they hold it in a closet sized room?
I kid with my wife and kids that I already have the songs I want played at my memorial. My choices? “Happy Cause I’m Going Home” by Chicago, and Israel Kamakiwiwo’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow”. I know that this my be a bit cliché, but it’s what I want and expresses what my thoughts. My son Sam, who is only 21 has already told us he wants “American Pie” played at his funeral. Don’t know why, but that is what he chose and I respect that.
I have had the opportunity to teach over the last 10 years, and several of my students keep in contact with me to let me know what is going on in their lives. I hope that somehow I left a footprint in their lives somewhere. My very first Eagle Scout as a Scoutmaster surprised me a few years ago when he caught me at DFW Airport and yelled out my name. He gave me a belated thanks for helping him through his Eagle project and application. He said it helped him get his current job as an engineer. Since that time 30+ years ago I have helped several others out as well.
A lot of people, especially Molly, my wife, tell me that I have a hard time saying no. Volunteering to do things just seems to be a part of what I do and who I am. My former boss, who was the mayor of Laredo, Texas when I was an assistant City Attorney there, once told me that I should be glad that I was not a woman. When I asked him why, he said that if I was a woman I would always be pregnant because I did not know how to say “no.” A bit crude, I know, but he was trying to make a point. When my daughters were in Choir I couldn’t just be a part of the booster club, I had to volunteer to be president. I couldn’t just go to the Homeowners Association meetings, I had to run to be on the board.
This is not a “hey look at how great I am” type of story. The thought of who would take time to remember me isn’t a huge part of my thoughts on a daily basis, but you can’t help but wonder–how will people remember me? During a professional development meeting one day we were asked to state what it was that we would like to see on our tombstone. Being the smart aleck that I tend to be, my immediate response was “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” It got a few laughs, but I was floored by the thoughtful response of one of my colleagues. He said he wanted it to say, “he was a good husband and father”.
Wow. That summed it all up in just a few words. That is what I want my legacy to be – a good husband and father (and by extension grandfather as well). I need to spend the rest of my life living up to that legacy. If no one but my family came to my funeral, I would be ok with it. Family should be the emphasis and focus in my life. Time to make it happen.