What Is the Theme of Your Life?
A few months ago I gave a eulogy for my brother-in-law.
Normally, I am not an orator. I don’t give speeches. I am not a socialite by any stretch of the imagination. You may have guessed; I am mostly an introvert.
But I listen well. I am interested in people. Observation is a skill. I like making connections. These traits helped me capture my brother-in-law’s essence.
Surprisingly, knowing my comfort level in front of crowds, I didn’t question or second-guess the initial request from my youngest sister. I also didn’t hope someone else would to do it.
At the time she asked, my sister was in the midst of grief. Her husband had days left with us. I felt that this was a small ask in the big scheme of life and it was a way I could take one thing off her shoulders. It didn’t mean I had any more of a special relationship than another had. Quite frankly, I am sure someone turned her down first.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. -Theodore Roosevelt
As I look back on the experience, I realize I was exceptionally privileged. What I received was far more powerful, and far more healing than I could have imagined.
“If you want to learn something, read about it.
If you want to understand something, write about it.
If you want to master something, teach it.” — Yogi Bhajan
I had to start from the ground up. Let’s face it, my grade school and college work never prepared me for writing a eulogy. As I gathered stories and pieced them together, I saw something emerge that I never saw before.
Ed had a theme in his life.
“When I think of Ed I think of the band, Chumbawamba…
I know, it’s a weird name. Chumbawamba sings the song Tubthumper — also known as, I Get Knocked Down.
“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”
I think “Tubthumper or I Get Knocked Down” (but I get up again), is the theme of Ed Pacitto’s life. I hope the song gets stuck in your head and every time you hear it, you think of Ed.”
Knowing this, I began to look at my own life in a new way. What I wanted others to know about Ed made me think of what I would want others to recognize in my life. More importantly, did I know my theme?
If you are honest, you want to have an admirable theme in your life as well.
This recognition brought up a flood of questions. Was I living my life in a way that set a good example? What legacy did I want to leave? What about my life should continue and what should I change? What have I always wanted to do but was too afraid to do? What was I putting up with that I couldn’t stand?
All the self-help guru’s will tell you to understand your “Why” and everything will fall into place.
When I was about twelve years old, my Grandmother died. I had only known her as a stroke victim, a woman who shook her cane at us since she could no longer speak, and a woman that my siblings and I paraded past her bedside a few times a year at the nursing home.
Grandparents — what memories do your grandchildren have of you?
I remember being in a large church, with lots of nuns and priests present and then riding with older cousins somewhere as I sat in the back of their car listening to Terry Jack’s, Seasons in the Sun playing on the radio.
That song gets me every time. If you need help in changing your life, listen to that song.
I can recall only two eulogies in my lifetime. One where my brother spoke about our mother and the second when my husband spoke about his mother in the same church where we were married.
Both women were well loved, well known and had left behind stories that we all could laugh about. These women inspired others.
I can remember doing a reading during the funeral for my cousin’s daughter who was roughly the same age as my son and who died far too young. Sometimes we don’t have years to leave an impact.
Is that all our life boils down to is a ten-minute speech and a short clip in a newspaper or on a website?
Shouldn’t we want more?
Who Are You? Do you know? If not, isn’t it about time?
There’s something special and intimate about trying to communicate the essence of someone and conveying their life to those they loved and cared about in a way that honors the life and brings healing.
For me, during the drafting of my brother-in-law’s eulogy, it was as if life slowed down and minute snapshots of his life revealed moments in time that coalesced, and I recognized the theme in his life.
I never saw them day to day but looking back it was clear.
This man never gave up. He was persistent, tenacious, and determined. The many challenges he experienced over a lifetime and his never-ending positive outlook were amazing. The illness that took him too soon gave him time to evaluate. He was grateful for what he had been given. He recognized the gift he had in life and his loved ones.
You have time to look back.
Looking at someone else’s life in that way brought about a deep introspection into my own life. I wondered what my theme was?
Do you know yours?
I am not sure why most days we forget that we are fortunate human beings. Just the simple act of being able to connect with friends and loved ones on a daily basis is something to be thankful for. Don’t believe me?
Think of the families who have recently lost someone and who would give just about anything to have their loved one walk through their door if only to sit and take a meal with them, or ride in the car with them, or pick up the phone and talk with them.
Most of us walk through life unconsciously, unaware of the miracles we are provided each day.
We take for granted what we have.
My eulogy did not talk about the possessions that were accumulated over a lifetime. I did not write about my brother-in-law’s looks (except for his beautiful blue eyes.) I did not write a eulogy about the squabbles and misunderstandings that had taken place over a lifetime.
I wrote about overcoming life’s challenges, meaningful moments, how he saw the world, some of his traits, his deep loves and his sense of humor.
Most of us fail to recognize the everyday miracles that exist — those things that we experience while we are in the middle of living them.
It is amazing that we worry more about our looks or how much money we have or don’t have. Why is it so important to tell everyone about our petty squabbles or how we were wronged?
Those things don’t matter when we sit in a time of loss and grieving.
What we did matters. Who we loved matters. How we changed this world matters.
It is a miracle be able to love and care for another.
Touching another’s heart, connect with their soul, offering a smile, sharing a lighthearted moment is everything.
Sitting with someone facing death and getting them to laugh is a distinct privilege. Even better is doing that for the family.
All You Have Is Time
I have been reminded more recently about how there’s not enough time in the day to do what I want to do.
Like many of you, I have relatives in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Their clock is ticking. I see so many lonely, abandoned, older folks that it breaks my heart. But I do all I can to stay connected. Even if your loved ones are incapable of letting you know how much that contact means, they feel the love. You bring peace by being there. The sound of your voice calms them when they don’t know where they are.
Why do we wait for weddings, funerals and holidays to get together?
In my work as a healer, I have come across many guilt-laden or grief-stricken individuals that had someone walk out the door in the morning only never to return.
When our name is called, we must leave. Don’t wait for someday.
When your loved one leaves in the morning, or for the night shift, could you treat them as if they might not come back? What would that look like? What grudge would we drop, what apology would we give, how tight would that hug be or how passionate would that kiss feel?
Look at your friends, loved ones, and coworkers and find something you would miss about them. Let them know.
Sincerity is a gift. Honest, open communication is a miracle. Kindness and compassion can change this world.
Don’t wait until the eulogy.