“In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out..As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself….Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?” – Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
At the end of the day in this all-too-short life, what matters most is relationships. Spouse, parent, child, friend—whoever your closest loved ones are, they warrant more than a passing glance; they deserve an intentional and meaningful relationship with you.
Stephen Covey encouraged all of us to think about our funerals. I’d like to encourage you to do the same thing. The people attending your funeral will be your spouse, your kids, your remaining siblings and other family members, and other people that you have had a close relationship with other the years. Now imagine the conversations around your funeral gathering. It is safe to assume the attendees at your funeral won’t be talking about your resume, your stock portfolio or your net worth. Rather people will remember you in terms of your relationship with them; did you love well, forgive easily, if you cared enough to be there for them. They will remember if you served them or expect to be served by them. They will know whether you thought life revolved around you or whether you really tried to honor God and others. They will remember whether you were generous or miserly, arrogant or humble, compassionate or indifferent. They will know if your life reflected the grace of God.
Most of us doing this exercise would probably come up with a mixed bag of the good, some bad and maybe even some ugly. Fortunately, this is only an exercise. We still have time to make relationships better. The people attending your funeral will also remember that turning point, and the progress you made. They will say, “I remember when he didn’t have time for me, but he has changed.” Or “I remember when she told me that my troubles are not her problem, but now she helps me all the time.” A business colleague chimes in, “All she cared about was her reputation at work…but now, she cares about the impact she is having on me.” And even better “as he has gotten older, he reflects the love of grace of Jesus Christ.”
If your marriage is broken, restoration is possible. If your friendship is frail, a fresh start is possible. Even if you’ve made mistakes in all your relationships, they can be redeemed. “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26).
Get the picture? Imagining your funeral is a deep and yes potentially sobering exercise. It gets to your core values and how you are leading your life in many important ways. But when you imagine this scenario, don’t just try to determine if you were a good or bad person, lived a godly life or not, but what you are doing with your life in the area of relationships.
- If you had one month to live, what would you work on in the area of relationships?