Finding Meaning at Your Funeral

You probably think that your funeral would be a rather odd place to find meaning in your life, and you may wonder why a book purporting to provide help with emotional distress is asking you to think about dying. Well, give us a minute here, okay? Let us explain.

Finding meaning and purpose in life is about connecting with ideas and concepts that are larger and deeper than yourself. For many, religion and spirituality are the primary channels for finding such meaning. But regardless of your spiritual beliefs, giving serious consideration to what you want your life to be about, in other words, the legacy you want to leave behind, can be an enlightening exercise.

In this section, we ask you to think about your funeral or memorial service and the thoughts and feelings that those in attendance may experience when contemplating your life. What do you want people to remember about your life? The following exercise helps you discover the traits, characteristics, and values you hold most dearly. By reminding yourself to live the rest of your life accordingly, you'll feel more enriched and fulfilled.

Roland completes the Eulogy in Advance exercise as a way of enhancing the sense of meaning and purpose he gets from his life. As he prepares to write his eulogy, Roland realizes that he hasn't been living his life in a way that justifies how he wants to be remembered. Nevertheless, he writes out how he wants people to think of him and his life after he's gone (see Worksheet 18-15).

Worksheet 18-15 Roland's Eulogy in Advance

We are gathered here today to say goodbye to our friend and family member, Roland. Roland was a wonderful father and husband. He loved and enjoyed spending time with his family Roland's children grew up to be successful and happy He loved and cherished his wife throughout their marriage. He was careful to keep the romance alive, even until the end. Roland was a true friend to many of us here today When someone needed help, Roland was the first to offer His door was always open. Whether or not people needed his time or even his money, Roland was generous. Roland also gave to his community; he organized members of his congregation to pick up seniors who were unable to drive so that they could attend church services and functions. Truly, he made the world a little better place.

Roland sees a painful contrast between the life he's been living and the one he wants to be remembered for. Thus, he realizes that he spends far too much of his time working and buying unnecessary "stuff." He doesn't want people to recall that he was the first on his block to have a plasma television or that he leased a new car every year. Roland vows that in the future, he'll spend more time with his friends and family, and he makes a plan for contributing more to his community. After all, he cherishes these values far more than all the material prizes in the world.

Use the space in Worksheet 18-16 to write your own Eulogy in Advance. Remember to be honest about how you'd like to be remembered, regardless of your current activities and behaviors.

1. Sit back and relax for a few minutes.

2. Ponder how you would like to be remembered at the end of your life. Think of loved ones and friends — what do you wish they would say or think about you?

3. Write down your thoughts. Your Eulogy in Advance should reflect the things you value most, in other words, what you want the rest of your life to be about.

Worksheet 18-16

My Eulogy in Advance

Starting at this moment, right now, you're beginning the rest of your life. Whether you're 15 or 84, it's never too late to start living a life with meaning and purpose.

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