Imagining Your Funeral
“Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.”
– Emma Coats, Pixar Studios
I attended a funeral this week. And, as those often do, it got me thinking about a lot of things. One of them was a night around a fire pit in my Crucible Project men’s group. Matt was leading us that night. And he asked us six questions that really changed things for me. He had discovered the quote from Emma Coats at the top of this post. She works at Pixar studios. Those folks know a thing or two about a good movie script. Emma was writing about the elements of a good story.
Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. It makes sense when we’re talking about a movie script. But, do we ever think of our real-life script that way? The men in our group conceded that night that most of us don’t. And even fewer of us, we said, begin with the end in mind.
Matt didn’t give us much time to answer the questions, and that made sense to me. After all, although death is certain for all of us, none of us know when that final moment will actually arrive. If we’re not thinking about the ending now, then how can we honestly expect it to turn out the way we’d hoped?
A honest glance at our answers would give us some clues:
- How many people do you want at your funeral?
- Do you want to have a huge turnout, with a lot of people you only knew superficially (and maybe that you didn’t know at all, like a celebrity would have)?
- Do you want to have a more intimate gathering, with a handful of family and friends that knew you intimately?
- Maybe you want something in between?
- What emotions do you want people to feel?
- Aside from sadness, what other emotions do you want your mourners to feel?
- Will they feel empowered by your life, or sing in admiration (or envy)?
- What do you want people to miss the most about you?
- Will people miss your laugh? Maybe your wisdom.
- Do you prefer to be remembered for your encouragement?
- What stories do you want people to tell?
- Do you want people telling stories about your epic adventures?
- Would you rather have them telling funny stories, recalling times when you would do things that led you to laugh at yourself?
- Or perhaps you would like them to tell stories about how you changed the world?
- What accomplishments do you want them to remember?
- Will they remember the orphanage you built?
- Did you build a business from scratch?
- Will you amass large sums of money that you can leave to your family, or to charity?
- If you found out you were going to die in one hour, what regrets would you have?
- Would you have relational regrets?
- Would you regret spending too much time in certain endeavors?
- Would you regret not spending enough time in others?
Until that night, I really hadn’t thought about any of this stuff. And it showed up in my answers. My answers to the first five questions were “blah” and predictable. I don’t think that’s what God had in mind when He created me (or you). What surprised me the most, though, was question #6 (regrets). I didn’t have to hesitate about those answers. The pen just started moving. If God called home in one hour, I would have left behind way too many regrets.
My answers that night affirmed for me that I had been meandering when it comes to the story of my life. I realized I had been letting my circumstances tell the story … not me. I was merely a spectator. I had been drifting from day-to-day hoping that in the end, it might all work out and I would have somehow cobbled together a good story.
If you know how you want your life to turn out, you must be intentional and make a choice to move in that direction. A week after my men’s group, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. I brought these questions — and my answers — with me. Over dinner, I shared my answers with her and unpacked how I’d like my life script to change — how I’d like to start intentionally building my own legacy. She answered the questions that night, too. And together, we even talked about what we’d like our family’s story/legacy to be. It was one of the best dinner conversations we’ve ever had. We’ve been working on rewriting that life script ever since.
The funeral I attended this week was for Gerry Alger, the wife of Mel Alger, a devoted and dedicated Crucible Project brother. She recently passed away after an 18-month fight with pancreatic cancer. I didn’t know Gerry well. Like many other Crucible Project men, I was there to support Mel. But when I heard their daughter and friends share the stories and impact of Gerry’s legacy, it was clear to me that Gerry lived with the end in mind. She led a beautiful, God-honoring life of humility, truth, healing, hope and love. And hundreds of lives were blessed – and changed – along the way. Gerry wasn’t a spectator. She was intentional.
Endings are hard. Get yours working up front
- What will your life script say, men?
- How do you honestly feel about your answers to those six questions?
Bonus: If you’re looking for a rewrite, I can’t think of a better place to start that work than on The Crucible Project’s upcoming Level 2 weekend on Mission. You’ll get critical tools you need to start that life script rewrite in an intentional way. And, you’ll be in a community of Christ-minded men who aspire to do the same. It’s coming up in mid-February. Learn more and sign up here (scroll down to Mission Weekend). The only pre-requisite is that you have completed an initial Crucible men’s weekend.
By Jeff Madsen
Jeff completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2008 and graduated from our two-year transformational program. His mission is to build a legacy of surrender, simplicity and significance. Jeff is the owner of Legacy Nation, an independent corporate communications practice based in suburban Chicago. He is passionate about equipping men with a LifePlan so they can discover their God-given legacies. He’s also passionate about writing about ordinary people who leave extraordinary legacies.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons