Every once in awhile I ask myself this question, “Who will come to my funeral?” Then I ask myself other questions. Is it important for my life to be acknowledged and celebrated on one specific day? Is it important to be remembered? Or does the real importance live in how many people have I shared one single meaningful moment with? Who has special and unique connections with me who will always hold a special memory of me because of one moment…and only one moment? Or one conversation? Or one weekend? Or one year?
I am introverted and becoming more so as I get older. Having young children made it so easy to be in groups of people. There are always things to talk about! School, hockey, curling, dance, volleyball, picture day…and more. Then that day arrives when those super awesome reasons for being around other people grow up and start going their own ways. The social circle gets rather small rather fast. Then the day arrives when you realize, geez, I really do not have very many actual friends. The kind that routinely text and say, “hey girl, how are you?”
Why is that?
I will tell you why that is for me…I stopped. I stopped being the sticky glue that held a friend group together. I stopped reaching out to friends whom I dearly care for. I stopped because many of my friends did not have the same energy to continue reaching back. So, I stopped. That has been my biggest mistake. I stopped.
For anyone who used to get routine messages and calls from me…I have not forgotten about you, I have just been asleep. For anyone who has shared a single meaningful moment with me, whether it was a happy moment or a sad moment, chances are I have not forgotten about that moment with you either.
Life is made of moments and I was once a person who made moments happen. By showing up to surprise a friend with a cup of coffee on their first day of work 162 km from home. By making a spontaneous phone call to an elderly lady and saying, “is today a good day for a visit?” and carrying flowers in to brighten her cold winter day as she sat at her kitchen table watching curling on her little TV. By having flowers delivered anonymously to someone I respect and admire just because in that moment it felt like it would be appreciated. By sending letters and cards to the important people in my life. By driving someone I had just met 150 km to where they needed to be when their vehicle was broken down. I used to make moments happen…and I still do.
I had someone whom I had grown quite close to in many ways say to me not too long ago “I don’t even know how to begin knowing you. You ask all these questions, you have all these answers yet behind all that, I still have no idea who you are or what you stand for.” Wow did that ever hit me between the eyes! To know that I walk this earth and give from my heart and despite all that, people who I have shared hours and hours of my time with do not truly know me.
Now I sit and ponder, if no one really knows me and only 12 people show up at my funeral, does that even matter? Would I rather be the person who has 400 people at my funeral because I am fully submerged in their lives through work or family or community involvement and going to my funeral is the “right thing to do”? Or would I rather have 400 relative strangers out there have one special memory of one significant conversation with me that built them up, that empowered them, that lifted their spirits, that gave them a gentle nudge, that let them feel heard, that let them feel appreciated? Chances are those 400 people know something very personal about me that I have shared with them in our “moment” together that the 400 people at the funeral did not know. At the end of this I realize I am ok with only 12 at my funeral because I know about the 388 people not there and they do not need to be at my funeral to prove that a moment in time in their life and in my life existed.
With that in mind, I will just keep doing my thing. My way. Knowing that I am building my own private cache of meaningful moments that are mostly one-on-one and may never be understood, accepted, or appreciated by others. And I am way okay with that.
I have some questions for you:
- How many of you have gone to a funeral and left feeling like “wow, I did not know anything about this person”? Did you feel at all embarrassed that you went and were you feeling as if you did not know them well enough to deserve being there?
- How many of you have stayed away from a funeral because your unique and special memory with that person is so deep inside your heart that being there might have put you at risk of sharing a memory that is not meant to be shared?
- Do you think the people who shared the most treasured moments in your life are the people who will be eating finger sandwiches at your funeral lunch?
- If it is your wish to have 400 people at your funeral, are you living your life in such a way that would encourage that? Are you doing all those right things to become embedded in the heart of your community?
I will now tell you about some of the people who I know will NOT be attending my funeral:
- A man named Gerald, who I met on a “rite of passage” road trip travelling alone as a young woman before heading off to my first year of college in 1992. He was manning an information booth for the Canadian Cattle Commission at the Manyberries, AB August long weekend Rodeo and Agricultural Fair. He took the time to talk to this “kid” from up north about grazing practises and the difference between acres needed for a cow/calf pair in southern Alberta versus where I am from. He was wearing a snap button long sleeve western style shirt, sleeves rolled up, chest pockets with flaps and a pen tucked into his left pocket. He was someone’s husband and dad working at a table but the respect he gave me, and my questions has always been remembered.
- A man named Bill Tuele, the former Public Relations Direct for the Edmonton Oilers. I met Bill at an Oilers meet and greet in Lloydminster when I was in my late teens/early 20s. I was wearing a name tag that said “Stacia” on it (Ask my cousin Scott Shirreff about why that was!) At that age I wanted nothing more than to have his job! At that little party, I got to talk to Bill and he took the time from his busy evening of schmoozing to give me some tips and advice and I went home feeling like a million bucks.
- A man named Tony, a Polish gentleman I met while working on Hartley Park Farm in England at age 22. Tony was older and had numbers tattooed on his arm…yes, he had been in a concentration camp. He would never talk about his time there. Tony loved our lively conversations and was absolutely tickled when this “sweet young thing” from Canada asked him to meet her on a day off for a “coffee” in town. I remember his last words to me before I left England, “You have a kind soul and whoever catches your heart is a lucky man.”
There you go. Some intimate details about my life for you to know. What intimate moments have I shared with you? Has this become the most intimate moment we have shared together? Whether you have known me a lifetime or have never even met me, you reading this line right here means we have just shared a moment together and I appreciate your time and I thank you for being here in this moment. You might not know it, but I think about you. I wonder about who you are behind what everyone else sees. Maybe one day, you and I will have that opportunity to share one of those truly unforgettable moments that never leave you.
At the end of the day, I am perfectly okay if you do or do not attend my funeral. My wish is that I made a positive, or at least an educational, difference in your life along the way. In my perspective, a funeral is simply the period at the end of the final sentence in your tangible life. At which point the reflections and inspirations you leave people with become the next edition in your story. The number of people at my funeral means less to me than the number of people who find out years later that I am gone and think “wow, that’s too bad, she was a pretty cool lady” and then I hope a memory is brought to life in their mind of a special moment we shared.
I know there are people out there who have a special moment memory with me that I am not even aware of. Just as there are many people who I have a special moment memory of who I know do not share the memory but were still there for the moment.
Live your moments well. Ask the awkward questions. Listen to the words not spoken. Hug any stranger who needs it. Make eye contact. Do not be afraid to touch someone’s arm. Offer words of gratefulness to those who serve you each day. Take time and talk to young people and listen to them and give them a part of your experience that they can use to grow from. Last, but certainly not least, my heart is with you as you go about your day. My wish is for you to have a bank full of memories and special moments that far surpass the seats available in any funeral hall.