What would people say at your funeral?
Image by Melissa Askew.
Yesterday marks 5 years since my father passed away.
In the space of less than 6 months he had gone from being a bon viveur spending a few weeks with my Mum in France, to being diagnosed with cancer, starting treatment and it being his end.
His funeral is an event I will never forget.
The weather had been poor all week, but that day was beautiful sunshine. The front of my parents’ home looked spring-like and a canvas of bright colours. The result of 30+ years of love and care in making the garden their pride and joy. It seemed a fitting salute as the funeral procession pulled away from the house.
As we arrived at the crematorium, this well-loved former Headmaster, had around 250 people waiting to pay their respects.
It was a strange feeling. In some ways I was wanting as little attention and interaction as possible, but also to give a fitting send off.
So many familiar faces and such a tangible wave of emotion was in the air.
My outfit choice that day would go against convention for some of the purists. I had on a sand-coloured suit, white shirt, brightly coloured tie and smart burgundy leather shoes that ‘popped.’ Perhaps I looked more like an Italian bank manager than someone attending a funeral.
But this was by design.
One weekend, a couple of years earlier, I was sat drinking coffee with my Dad discussing lots of different topics. A favourite weekend treat.
And it came up, that I had decided for my funeral, that I wanted every attendee to be wearing a visible item of clothing that was brightly coloured. I figured that funerals shouldn’t have to be such dark and dreary occasions. They should be celebrations of life.
He thought that was a great idea.
This memory came back to me as the family was arranging his funeral as we had not had time to discuss such things in his final months.
During the service, we heard readings, saw photos flash across the screen of him and my Mum dating at college, pictures of friends and of family holidays when my sister and I were little.
Plus, the dozens of people that we spoke to after the service. I still get choked up thinking about some of the conversations and what was expressed about my Dad; how much he had touched their hearts and made an impact on their lives. From friends and family, to neighbours, to former colleagues, to parents and pupils from Newbottle Primary School that he led for 21 years.
It really got me thinking.
How would I like to be remembered? What will people say at my funeral?
It’s a dark thought, I agree, but it genuinely is something to consider and use as a way of checking where we are in life.
Am I currently doing enough of what I want to do and who I truly want to be? And does this match the vision I have for this sad, future event?
In answering such questions, for me, the answer was no. Something needed to change. And I needed the time to get through this grief, to figure out what that might be.
So, a lot has changed in the past five years which you will no doubt read and hear more about through the sharing of my journey.
Whether it is creating a podcast and Inspiration North, becoming a Gallup certified strengths coach and launching my coaching business Zira Life, or supporting my partner Michelle in creating Work Pirates. So much has come to light following this realisation and making things happen.
And in all of this, with each week, each new thing to celebrate...the first person I still wish I could call to tell and chat about all this (or have a coffee together), would be my Dad. I have no doubt he’d have loved to be involved with all these projects.
So, if you had to think about what people will say at your own funeral.
What do you imagine that will be? And what do you want to be remembered for?
Where are the gaps? What can you get started with today?
Perhaps this self-reflection will give you some avenues to explore, to find deep-rooted answers, and it might even change your life for the better.
Image: Me helping my Dad in the garden at about 3 years' old.