Instead of writing resolutions, I write/re-write my funeral plans on the first couple days of each new year. It’s under “If I Die Today” on my computer. HH knows the password.
My plans change from year to year depending on what’s going on and what happened over the previous months, but I want to be ready. I am semi-obsessed with death having officiated at hundreds of funerals, memorial services, and graveside events and having experienced death in my own family. I am surprised that I am still alive, if you want to know the truth. I expected to die of cancer in my mid-50s or – if lucky – by 60. But here I am and life is sweet and I have a lot to be grateful for.
And so part of my funeral planning is writing The Last Thank You Note. It can be read at my memorial service, if someone wants to take that on, but it’s basically a brief thank you to God for my life. It’s only by grace that I’ve enjoyed the life I’ve had and I am especially cognizant of this when I look at the lives of those friends of mine who – from the get go – never had what I had from birth: attentive parents, a roof over my head, enough food to eat, good health, good education. Oh, and pale pigmentation.
Have you ever been to A Great Funeral that made you want to be a better person? Those testimonies of well-lived lives that were about serving others, having bravery in the face of danger, rising from the ashes of tragedy? I have been privileged to bury some of my favorite people and it’s made me want to be better myself. World War II heroes. Single parents who raised amazing kids in difficult circumstances. Farmers who kept everything going. Immigrants who took menial jobs so that their kids could go to college. Brave children. Brave teenagers. Brave young adults. I’ve buried at least one spy. (The government eulogist said, “He always made sure the women and children were safe” and I thought that guy had been a professor.)
Great funerals are inspiring. But the best are like thank you notes. They point not to the ives of the dead but to what made them truly alive.
This is how I start out 2021 in hopes that I live to see 2022 and 2023 and as many years as I’m given. Happy New Year. It is a gift from God.