My Aunt Maureen died last month. We were planning on her living another year. The year turned into a week. I wrote her obituary asap. I wrote a eulogy with the same speed. When it was all over, I decided that obituaries and eulogies should be considered before someone dies. It sounds callous, but there is so much to do, and each detail has a punishing deadline.
When we returned home from my aunt’s funeral, I sat like a sack in my rocking chair and had the umpteenth conversation with myself about the form the rest of my life should take. I decided to write my obituary, a life plan in reverse. It was an enlightening experience. I don’t have a bucket list, but I have imagined doing two things for 20 years: building a women’s shelter and being a foster parent. Before I wrote my obituary, I thought these goals were reasonable, and I couldn’t make sense of my inertia. I felt bad about it.
Goals become lost dreams when you don’t understand the essence of your longings or your limitations. There is no amount of life coaching or therapy that could ready me for returning a baby to abusive parents or welcoming a woman battered season after season. Understanding this, I considered my motivations. I discovered that what I really wanted was an opportunity to repay the kindness of all the women who helped raise me. Then, I wanted to help women who’ve been hurt so that I could frame a painful memory of my mother with love and goodness. It turns out I have been doing both but in small ways I didn’t appreciate, holding babies who don’t have homes and supporting women who’ve stepped off the streets with advocacy.
My obituary is short and unremarkable as obituaries go. I think my eulogy will be better. That’s where you communicate the heart of a person. I try to be kind every day and dig deep for compassion. I struggle with acceptance, but I can usually forgive. It feels good to get my mind in order. You should try it. Your bucket list is bound to be more interesting, and your vision of yourself is sure to improve.