Why death defines us
What I read, shocked me. Top headline: "Joan Rivers Dies". Now, I did not know her, and I can't remember seeing much of her work, other than a snippet here and there, acknowledging her acid tongue jokes, or the fact that she has had a tad too much plastic surgery.
Why I was shocked is because this vivacious woman, with her wits about her, was fine one week, and had passed the next - almost without warning. You may say that she was 81 years old, and had a good innings, but she also was a very active woman with a lot of life to live and had a job doing live television when most would be resting in their rocking chairs.
Only weeks after getting over the reality that a childhood favourite, Robin Williams took his own life, I feel that death has all of a sudden become a part of my life - and to be honest I don't want a second of it.
It seems that I don't go a day without hearing about someone dying, which I believe kind of goes with the territory when you get a bit older. Whether it is someone you know, someone from afar or a friends uncle, cousin, brother, mother or companion.
What I have come to realise is that in death, we somehow get defined in a way that is final. That's who we are- or more precisely were. The outpouring of grief from Robin Williams' friends and fans was heartfelt. My friends relative died last week, an important father figure to him, and when asked about it, my friend said "he was a gentleman". Steve Jobs, was defined as one of the world's greatest entrepreneurs - the person you would want to be in your top 5 people at the dinner table.
How people see us in our final resting place is the way we are remembered and each of us have a different story to tell.
From what can be seen as morbid, or alternatively a celebration of life, is quite simply how people define us and perhaps an acknowledgement of kind of our personal brand.
So I gave it some thought and here is how I would like to be defined for my life's work:
- Kind: Being kind is one of the most important values that anyone could possess. You don't need to have money to be kind, nor do you need to have time or resources. It is simply remembering that doing things for others without expecting anything in return is kind.
- Thoughtful: People often get busy in everyday life or absorbed in their own state of affairs and forget to be thoughtful. I have had the absolute privilege to have some very thoughtful people in my life who no matter how busy they get or how many things impact their lives positively or negatively, they remain thoughtful. A Hermes scarf to someone who only had a day to live, was a classic example of one of my mentors being thoughtful. A simple card that says that you are special and mean something to someone is another.
- With purpose: Life needs purpose and sometimes that's harder to define than it sounds. Some people get married and have children, and that is their 'purpose' while others become musicians or poets. Having a purpose and a reason to have a footprint on earth, is important - but it may take a lifetime to realise what that is.
- Friendship first: I am a fiercely loyal friend and after many years of playing the social calendar believing that there is more than a handful of people that may be considered your true friends, I have finally turned a corner. If you can count your closest friends on one hand, then you have done well. Friendship is not a fairweather play, but not too dissimilar to being married; sickness and health, good and bad - a friend is a friend. Sacrificing doing something you want to do to be with a friend in need is a sign of good character.
- Good manners: I am a stickler for good manners and it still causes me irritation when the simplist form of good manners is neglected. Saying 'hello' and 'goodbye', are easy to do, and 'thank you' should just roll off your tongue. Opening the door for a woman, or waiting for someone to finish talking before interupting them with what you have to say, or walking on the outside curb (man) as a woman walks on the inside - are all very simple things to do - and just a sign of a good upbringing and good manners.
- Give more than you take: Give, give, give - and expect nothing in return. It's a mandate that I live by yet sometimes even for me, I get a little disappointed at those who just take, take, take.
It's the relationships we form in the life we live and the little things we do - that we don't require recognition for - that leave as a lasting impression.