Vail Daily column: A celebration of life
Every one of us faces a time in our lives when we have to say goodbye to someone. In this case, I am speaking specifically to that time in our lives when a close friend or family member passes away and we must say our final farewells.
During the past two weeks, I have had to say goodbye to two very close friends who lost their battles with cancer. Both were relatively young and passed away much too soon, with both being survived by spouses and children. Very sad situations indeed, and I know many of you, if not most of you, have faced similarly sad situations and the passing of friends and loved ones, too.
As I prepared myself to deliver both eulogies as a remembrance and tribute to my friends lives, I found myself fighting the profound sadness that filled my heart and balancing that against the incredible joy and wonderful memories I experienced with each one of them. The sadness I felt was powerful, and I cried as I wrote the words that I would speak at each of their services. Yet even as the grief overwhelmed me, I was captivated by the thoughts, stories and rich history I experienced with my friends.
IMPORTANT TO REMINISCE
It turned out that the single best thing I did in order to alleviate some my blues and sorrow was to speak with other friends and family members. Now I know this happens as a natural part of remembering someone when we gather for memorial services. We speak to people we haven’t seen in years and we talk about the same old stories of high school fame or of youthful mischievous behavior. And in some cases not-so-youthful mischievous behavior. We talk about the good times, and we seem to let the bad times slip into oblivion. All of this is very helpful for some as they reminisce about the good old days.
What I found most helpful was not just talking about the quick stories we share when we don’t know what else to say but rather digging in and going deeper into some of the most meaningful events that were shared and some of the deepest feelings that others were willing to share. And as I asked those deeper questions and pressed slightly harder for more depth in their responses, I found the others very willing to open up and share more from their hearts.
And in both cases as I probed my own memory, which led to intimate exchanges of information with the friends and family members, a true celebration of life was forming in my mind and on my pad of paper. It became so much more than just what I was “supposed” to say during a eulogy or what would be deemed as “appropriate.” What materialized were robust, dynamic, funny, loving, passionate and provocative life stories. Things worth celebrating and sharing with the world.
Giving the pastor and the priest fair warning of irreverent stories turned out to be the right move. Balancing humor with compassion and finding a way to tell their real life story to celebrate a life well lived, allowed me to deal with my own grief better and gave me the ability to share the stories in a way far more meaningful than the “supposed to say” and “church appropriate” language.
TREASURE YOUR MEMORIES
You may never have to give a formal eulogy, but we all eulogize those we loved and lost in our hearts. So I share this story with you today so that maybe you too can find a little more relief and happiness by going deeper into the memories you shared with those who have passed away. Talk to your cousins, aunts, uncles and friends, find out what they knew and what they enjoyed most. There is no doubt you will hear stories of love, laughter, mystery, hard work, character and a life worth celebrating.
If you are also dealing with the loss of a loved one, I give you my condolences. And if there is anything you would like to share with me, I would love to hear all about the way you are celebrating their life at firstname.lastname@example.org. And when we allow time to respect and grieve but also find ways to truly celebrate what we had, it really will be a better than good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach, motivational speaker and CEO of http://www.candogo.com. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.