Last night I went to a stunning wedding and witnessed a young couple embark on a life together built upon Jewish values and tradition. I was moved and it was beautiful. But this morning I went to a funeral and it transformed me, leaving me with a burning desire to improve and develop myself.
Nothing makes me want to grow, change and improve more than a funeral.
And I’m in good company. King Solomon, considered to be the “wisest of all men,” also loved funerals. He wrote: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2)
When I hear children eulogize their parents I inevitably ask myself:
- What will my children say about me at my funeral?
- Am I living my life with total commitment to the value and ideals that I hold dear?
- Am I the type of role model for my children that I yearn to be?
These feelings stir a healthy discontent within, creating a greater resolve and clarity to live with commitment to the principles and ideals that I want my children to remember me by.
The funeral I attended today was no different. My Uncle Burt was a prince of a man. His children and grandchildren recounted his life and inspired a raptured gathering with vignettes telling of commitment, hard-work, dedication to principles and values, love, and respect.
Again, I overheard myself asking myself, “Do I display this level of commitment to my values? Do I conduct myself with the same degree of professionalism and integrity as Burt did? Do I demonstrate the same level of love and respect as my dear uncle did?”
How will I be remembered?
Will my eulogizers have the luxury of choosing from an endless supply of anecdotes that illustrate my sterling character, like my cousins did yesterday when they lauded their father? Will they have a reservoir of examples of my spiritual and moral accomplishments to pick from? Or will they have to vie for the first speaking slot to insure that other’s don’t usurp their one or two classic stories about me?
Walking out of that cemetery this morning, I felt connected to the realization that life is short and fragile, and there is so much work to do. I need to live each day of my life as the person who I long to be remembered as.
I have never felt that at a wedding. King Solomon, I get it.
And how many times have you been to a funeral when you left kicking yourself for not having made a greater effort to get to know a person who could have taught you so much? And now, it’s too late.
We have so many gems in our midst. We squander too many opportunities to really become intimate with people who can impact us and help us to grow in so many ways.
I left the cemetery this morning with so many thoughts racing through my mind. One of them was: Who can I reach out to in my own extended family who will enrich my life and help me grow as a father, a husband, a man of integrity?
May we only have simchas, celebrations of true joy and happiness. But when the occasion arises, I love going to funerals.