Three older guys are talking about what they would like the minister to say at their funerals.
“Well,“ says the first man, “I hope the minister stands in front of my casket and tells everyone that I was a good man who loved his family.”
The second man says: “I hope the minister stands in front of my casket and tells everyone that I tried to inspire others with my life.”
The third man thinks for a moment.
“I hope the minister stands in front of my casket and says, ‘Wait, look! He’s still moving!’”
Yeah, bad joke. But it touches on something important nonetheless.
We need to keep moving.
While I was enjoying my birthday on Saturday, there were two funerals going on. Those of you who read my blog know about Steve the neighbor, the exceptionally kind man who cared deeply about others. He developed two inoperable brain tumors and died two months later. He was buried on Saturday.
I also heard the story of a man named Eric who also was loved by those who knew him. He developed pancreatic cancer, went to Spain for inspiration to start the last phase of his life, and died exactly one year later. He also was buried on Saturday.
Their lives have touched so many others. Their deaths remind us to cherish life.
Life is our gift. What are we doing with it?
Are we really putting ourselves into it, or are we doing it more in a half-hearted way? Are we living the day or just getting through it?
When I was younger, I never thought about that much. When you’re young, you spend a lot of time looking ahead — ahead to the day when you’ll fall in love, get married, have kids, get that job you want, travel the world, do whatever it is you‘re dreaming of doing. And it’s easy to live in that dream instead of living the day.
As time goes along, it’s also easy to settle into an everydayness that drains some of the life out of each day. Go to work. Pay the bills. Make an appointment to get this or that fixed. Get through the day and move onto the next one.
You come to a point where your dream starts to feel a little less attainable. Or, your dream comes true and you find out that it’s not at all what you expected and maybe it’s not at all what you really wanted and needed. So what do you do now?
Eventually, a moment comes along when it hits us that life is limited.
For me, that moment came when I turned 53, the same age my dad died of a heart attack. Suddenly, death seemed a whole lot more real. It shook me. And it took me quite a while to come to grips with it — I still haven’t fully.
Slowly, though, the realization has changed me in many good ways. I’ve begun to appreciate each day a little more. I worry less about the everyday stuff. It’s a bit easier to step back and see the big picture and realize what matters most to me.
We only get so many days. And it’s important to understand that truth. When we realize it, we get better at using them instead of wasting them.
Which is not to say that every day becomes a piece of cake.
We have those moments when we feel glad to be alive. And we also have those times when life feels overwhelming, confusing, painful. Things seem all jumbled. All we want to do is curl up and get through the day and hope that tomorrow — or the tomorrow after that — is better.
At some point, we have to get up and get on with making something out of the day. Even if we’re still hurting or confused or unsure.
To borrow the last line of that joke, we have to keep moving.
Moving toward the people whom we love. Moving closer to the people who love us. Moving to expand the circle of those we love, making it a bit wider every day. Moving toward being more of the person that we can be, even if we’re not sure what that means exactly.
Moving ahead even though we still carry our doubts, our confusion, our insecurities and our pain with us. Looking for those moments of clarity along the way that help us understand what to do and where to go next.
We also have those moments of joy and gratitude that inspire us to take another step, even if it’s a bit shaky sometimes.
As Jim Croce put it, we need to keep moving ahead so life won‘t pass us by. Moving deeper into life with each step.
Take another next step. Enjoy the journey.
And love even more.