Imagine your funeral.
No, stop, stop!
Don’t glibly think of an unfilled grave on a windswept hill. Some random clergy reciting scripture. A raging storm swirling in the blackening sky above and Mozart’s Requiem wailing in the wind.
I want you to really transport yourself.
Like dropping through a worm hole or traveling with The Doctor in the TARDIS and actually being present.
You need to do some real work, take the path of most resistance, be inventive, confront your own mortality.
Set the scene.
Imagine the building, what type of structure is it? What colour are the walls, the floor, the chairs? Is there music playing in the background? What is it? Think about the layout of the room with your coffin at the front and quietly consider who will be sitting there with you.
Who’s in the front row? Imagine your partner, your children, family and friends bereaved before your casket. What are they wearing and who’s sitting with who? Who’s comforting, weeping, mourning or sitting in silent contemplation?
Run it like a scene from a movie in your mind. Look into your children’s faces and deep into their watery, bloodshot eyes as they gaze at your coffin. Use your new “in death” power to glean their thoughts, experience their grief – be there with them and share it.
Turn to your partner or your closest loved one. Are they the one supporting everyone else? Are they silent and contemplative, stoic in their loss, silently grieving, bereft? You know them so well and can sense their anguish.
Are you there yet?
Is the day of your death vivid in your mind? Can you reach out and imagine holding your child’s hand, comforting them and feeling their despair?
Don’t chicken out and don’t stop until you have tears welling in your eyes and a lump in your throat. You need to be so immersed in the experience that you are sobbing, blubbering and grieving for your own mortality. I want you to be traumatised, grief-stricken for yourself. Bereft at the loss, the wasted opportunities, and absorbed in the suffering of your family.
Take time, close your eyes, dream and imagine, weave a future world and be transported.
But, once there, be gentle. Think of yourself with love and compassion and don’t be judgemental. Tread softly on the delicate fabric of your dreams and be forgiving.
Now, at most funerals, someone will give a eulogy. They will speak to the rest of the assembled mourners about the deceased, what they meant to them and how they impacted their lives. They will try to offer comfort through some collective experience of recall. Choose someone to give the eulogy at your funeral. It might be your partner, your eldest child or a lifelong friend.
Take a pen and paper and write your own eulogy.
You need to do it word for word, don’t think too much about it and don’t try to make it perfect. Let it stream out of your consciousness like a flood, write what you would want them to say. How you would want them to have remembered you, how you have affected their lives, how you have meant so much to them. Don’t get tied up in details, make it about the you that you became, the you that you want to be by the end; the very best of you. Screw spelling, grammar or punctuation – go for raw emotion, pure thought and white hot frantic creation.
Most importantly, write in the past tense.
Take your time.
Have you done it?
If not, and you have just scanned down here and bypassed any emotional involvement then I say shame on you. Grow some balls and get back up to the top of this and get started!
To the rest of you, if you have gone through the wringer and have embraced my words and are sitting in front of a tear-stained page of notes – I salute you. I embrace you and congratulate you because you have done one of the toughest and most important things.
For now, take a rest. Come back to the present and relax a little! Take a moment to appreciate the gulf of time between the present and where you have just been.
We spend a huge amount of our lives wondering what on earth we should be doing. Scrabbling through superfluous crap looking for meaning and being frantically busy doing stuff, often just for the sake of it.
By imagining your ending, your eulogy, what you want to be remembered for by the people who are most important to you, you’re taking a shortcut to clarity. You will snap into sharp focus the things that are truly important to you and allow you, in life, to achieve them before the end. You can’t plan a journey without knowing your destination, it would be pointless. Yet that’s what so many of us do with our lives.
How do you want to be remembered?
Are you currently doing the right things that will build your legacy or are you wasting time, lost and without direction or focus? What would the people who will be at your funeral say about your life as it is now?
Now, go back and look over what you have written and distill it into a series of powerful statements. Something along the lines of “(your name) was always…..”, “I will never forget how (your name) used to……..”, etc, etc.
Create a list of ways that you want to be remembered, a list of your legacy, a list of your lasting impact on the world. It doesn’t matter if these seem far removed from where you are now or seem unattainable. You’re writing a list of how things would be if you reached your death having achieved your full potential.
The great thing is you still have time to bring this about!
No matter how vivid your experience of your own funeral was it isn’t quite game over yet and you do still have time to make a difference. Things might seem impossible to change now but they are nowhere near as impossible as when you are lying in your coffin. You still have influence, you still have choices and you can still bring about your own destiny. You still have time to plan and map out your days and years to achieve that potential, to arrive at your destination in fullness and glory!
When I experienced this exercise for the first time it had a profound effect on me. I dismissed it for a start and it took a couple of attempts to really immerse myself in what was actually a reasonably traumatic experience. It became vividly painful for me to see my children at my graveside and to hear their voices talking about their dead father.
But, it gave me clarity. It changed some of my priorities and I made a long term plan with the final destination as my end goal.
It gave me peace of mind that I was going in the right direction, helped me to prioritize things and to plan with much more purpose and with more confidence. It became the context for my days.
You’ll probably have found that your eulogizers will have spoken about the little things about you that they miss. Your funny habits, funny stories, what you did for them and what you meant to them. These are the things that people love, the things that make you human, individual and special. No one really cares what you did for a job or what sort of car you drove. They will remember the impact you made on them, how you loved and cared for them, guided them, supported them and made them laugh.
Do it for the ones you love, do it for your children, your grandchildren. Do it because you deserve to have the life you were destined for, take responsibility for bringing it about because one day someone will stand before your casket and they will say “I remember when……”
But that time it will be game over, there will be nothing else to be done, no more choices, no further influence.
You deserve to lie peacefully.
Was imagining your funeral a powerful experience for you? Did it enable to see your life with more clarity and help you map out your path? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Andrew Hind is a Dad to three teenage girls, photographer and musician as well as a keen cyclist. He is also the blogger at www.roadcyclistsguide.com a blog about cycling, life and thriving. You can also connect on Facebook.
Image courtesy of Alex Wigan.