Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Will They Say of You When It’s Your Time to Go?

Today I attended the funeral service of a lady. She lived a full and remarkable life and touched many lives along the way. Now she’s passed on and only the memories remain. Despite the occasion, it was a nice gathering of family and friends as we celebrated her life and legacy.

As I generally do when I attend such a service, I did quite a bit of reflecting on the big picture of life.  That was particularly easy to do today when a poem entitled "The Dash" was read during the service. And it really got me thinking. Here's the meaning of it: on tombstones, they generally write the date of birth, then a dash, then the date of death. 

The essence of the poem was that everyone is born and everyone dies but it's how we spend our "dash" that determines the quality of life that we live and how we will be remembered. The lives that we touch along our journey will forever be impacted by how we spend our “dash."

As I pondered the thoughts generated by the poem, I started thinking about just how when people pass on, all the best things are said about them. It seems that as people pay tribute to them at their funerals, they speak of them as if they were the most angelic beings to have ever lived. It's just common practice to speak of those who die that way. 

This brings to mind a story my dad told me several years ago. A man in our old community in Jamaica died. At his funeral, as the wonderful tributes were shared at the service, his wife and kids sat in the front row listening to the words of comfort. 

After one of the tributes, the widow asked one of the kids to go and look in the casket to see whose body was in it because she didn't know the man they were talking about. She certainly couldn't relate to the "angel" that others portrayed him to be.

That's a funny story but it also makes a powerful point that I think we can all benefit from. As dads, whether we should pass on as old men or as young men, it's our families - our wives and kids - who know us best. So although others may have a certain perception of us, it's those who live with us and see the quality of our lives who can truly attest to the persons we really are.

As you may know, the Upbeat Dad organization was founded on the principle that kids need actively-involved, loving fathers to become their best. The role of fatherhood is such a noble and influential calling. It's a precious gift that some of us are fortunate to have. 

Having the opportunity to shape, mold and influence the lives of those who will lead the next generation is a privilege that ought not be taken for granted. And it's an opportunity that's loaded with rewards for us and for our kids.  

On this blog I write about fatherhood from multiple perspectives. I share my own journey about being a married dad of one child, then a divorced/single dad and now a married dad of two children. Because of the power of the internet, I'm able to share thoughts with people all over the world and truly make a connection with them. That’s as wonderful an experience as I could hope for – touching the lives of many whom I’ll likely never meet.

But can I tell you something? All that I do regarding my public persona would be totally meaningless and futile if my wife and kids cannot attest to the life that I live at home. Because when the computers shut down and the lights go out, it's those who remain in my life perpetually who can tell who I really am. 

So if I am a loving, caring husband and father and make my wife and kids my top priority in all things, then I’ll know that anything else that might come along is only a bonus. My home is my first responsibility; then comes everything else.

I have no plans to leave this earth any time soon. I have too much life to live and too much more to give. I also want to continue building a successful marriage and enjoying every moment with my wife. And guiding my kids into becoming the best that they can be is a passion of mine. But I also know that tomorrow is promised to no one.

A cliché that is often used says, "Live each day as if it was your last." I want to know that whenever my last day should come - whether I'm young or old - regardless of what others may say of me, my wife and kids would honestly say that I lovingly cared for them with every fiber of my being. 

My challenge with this post is to encourage you to put first things first. It's great to live the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It's wonderful to climb the corporate ladder and achieve success in our careers. But in such a pursuit, let's not forget that our families come first. 

How tragic it would be if we achieve our life goals and become known around the world as a result of our accomplishments, yet we lose our special connection to our families in the process? How disheartening would that be? I’d call that becoming a successful failure.

I'll close this post with my poem A Lasting Legacy from my book Poems of Inspiration: A Daily Dose of Self-Motivation:

A Lasting Legacy

May I seek to serve my fellow man,
and give of myself and do all that I can.
May I love and give a helping hand—
that's the foundation on which I stand.

For what is my life if not to live?
And what is my purpose if not to give?
When my life has ended I cannot relive
the moments I now have to love and forgive.

Each day as I awaken and watch the sunrise
and offer my life as a sacrifice,
may I teach all I know, and give good advice—
displaying integrity with no compromise.

Whenever I come to the end of my days
and I go to my final resting place—
when the sun goes down and I finish this race,
may I leave this world a better place.

This is my vow to humanity—
a vow that will last all eternity.
For my children and all who will come after me,
may I leave a lasting legacy.

I hope that whenever your last day should come, despite the great accolades that you may receive from others, those who know you best – those in your household – would speak of your goodness with true sincerity.  That's what really matters when all is said and done.

Let these thoughts lead and guide you as you live your life each day.

The Upbeat Dad

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