The Living Years

I drove home today from work and got stuck in a bit of traffic. Ok, I understand, that is not unusual or “blog worthy”, however it was the reason for the traffic that caught my attention. A funeral home about a quarter of a mile ahead had parked cars lined up on both sides of the road for about 8 blocks, including all side streets. It was an incredible scene. I thought to myself, who was that person? What did he or she do to touch so many people to come out to pay their respects and support the loved ones left behind?

I’m sure we’ve all seen similar scenes, or pictured our “calling hours” at one time or another and imagined who would show up? Would there be cause for a traffic officer? Maybe many traffic officers to direct all the people you’ve touched throughout your life?

This post is actually many weeks in the making as it is a combination of a couple of events/conversations and this final visual/experience which pulled it all together. Funny how life works like that huh?

I met up with an old friend the other day after reconnecting through social media. We hadn’t seen each other since we attended camp together as teenagers! We got to talking about all sorts of things (30 years leaves a lot of catch up!) and through the discussion it was clear he was in the throes of mid-life crisis! He had accomplished so much in his life to date; he has a wonderful wife and family, a beautiful house and a great job (incidentally, the one he decided he would have when he was a teen), but he was clearly moved by the fact that he had completed half the race already – the clock was ticking away daily, his mortality was in sight. I felt from him this sense of urgency that his days ahead needed to be utilized to accomplish things, maybe he had not utilized the past 45 years to their absolute fullest.

Over dinner with my sister a few weeks past we were speaking of the differences between how men and women (generally speaking) leave legacies. Over the course of the evening, we deduced that our concern was not about leaving something tangible; money, a building with our name on it; a Nobel prize, but relationships. We wanted to have touched people and leave our mark of our time here by the way we touched others and the energies exchanged during our time on earth.

So back to the wake I passed – How do we live in a way that we matter to others when we are no longer here? In fact, better yet, how do we live in a way that we matter while we are here each day? In the end, no matter how you define legacy, doesn’t it come down to our time on earth mattering? We don’t have to create world peace (although don’t let me stop you!) or discover something magnificent, but I think we, as humans, do need to feel like our existence matters.

Today marks the one year anniversary of Steve Job’s death. Steve mastered mattering both in life and continues to touch people after his passing, not by his iDevices, but by his speeches, the quotes all over the internet today. Those quotes came from Steve living each day – as he is famous for the repeating the line to live each day as if it was your last as one day you will most certainly be right.

Using the desire to matter to people – those I know and will show up at my funeral, and those I don’t, who may never know of my passing, becomes my new touchstone. I guess it has been there for all along, but not as clearly as it was as I passed others celebrating having been touched by a certain someone as I drove passed their calling hours today. That person touched me and directed me, a complete stranger, even in their death – I want to be that kind of person!

How about you? What kind of person do you want to be in your living years?

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