Dave is dying. He knows it. His family knows it. His doctors have given him days to live. The journey to this point has been long and the illness valiantly resisted. There have been moments of optimism when he predicted grandkids bouncing on his knees. But the sun has set on those days of hope and bravado. About three months ago a friend of his organized a party for him. “I don’t want to just eulogize Dave after he is gone,” she said. “I want to tell him now. I want him to know how he changed my life.” She gathered friends. Hundreds of them. They came from 12 states and further by Zoom. They called it a “Tribute Party” and one-by-one friends of Dave stood and told him who he was. They told stories that, while he remembered them, had new details and nuance coming from a different lens. He heard stories that he didn’t remember, at least not the way they were told to him that day: casual conversations that resonated so deeply and profoundly that, here they were, being recounted to him decades later. He was surprised and delighted, humbled and blessed. It wasn’t depressing. It wasn’t fatalistic. Nobody was prematurely closing his coffin. They were simply admitting humanity. Death was imminent and Dave was loved, and words needed to be said.
Why don’t we eulogize in life more often? I don’t mean that we track down our terminally ill friends, but why don’t we purposefully and frankly tell people we love what they mean to us, how their lives have changed our lives or how their unique personalities make our lives brighter? Why does it take (and why do we love to be the recipient of) Facebook birthdays to reach out and brighten the life of a friend or loved one? Because here is the truth: when we don’t speak those words to each other our own perverse insecurities fill in the blanks in our heads. We know we make an impact but, in our minds, that impact is a car wreck. In truth, the impact may have been a needed gust of wind to move them into their life’s purpose or, at very least, a breeze to better their day.
I’m a card writer. I have a cabinet full of greeting cards. My favorite category standing in the Hallmark aisle is “blank.” Blank allows me to fill in the blanks. To take a minute and jot down what I love about someone I love. Then I put a stamp on it and mail it. Ironically, it is the millennials in my life that love this most. This group that lives by a 144-character rule and has little patience for a grammatically correct text loves the hand-written card. One of my nieces once posted one of my cards on her Facebook page. Not when she received it. It was posted three years later when pulled it out of a camera bag she has safely tucked it in. Why had she saved it all of these years? Because words carry power and healing and life and blessing. We all need that.
Once I went to a terminally ill friend and read my card to him. I looked him in the very eyes that within a few days would be forever closed. Through tears in my own eyes I read to him. Was it awkward? Perhaps. But I choose awkward over regret. This man had made an incredible impact on my life and I wasn’t going to let him die without knowing it.
I encourage you to eulogize your loved ones in life. Take a moment to purposefully, and intentionally say “I love you. And here is why…” When the time comes for a traditional eulogy you can sit quietly with the peace that comes from knowing that the now-deafened ears heard. While it’s true that “in the end” we want to know that our life was more than a sterile obituary of degrees, jobs and accomplishments, why do we have to wait until “the end” to give that gift to each other?
We all want legacy. Legacy means that someone left behind carries a part of us. It means that a person is or has or lives because we spoke, acted, or invested; someone is materially changed for the better because we existed, and our lives intersected.
House Call is a blog written by Kathy Chiero, Licensed Realtor and Team Leader of The Kathy Chiero Group of Keller Williams Greater Columbus. Find Kathy and her team at www.OurOhioHome.com