Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Will Matter

My father was chairman of the Cemetery Committee at Temple De Hirsch in Seattle for 25 years. Quite often he would come home a little late for dinner and announce that he had to stop by Hills of Eternity Cemetery because a few tombstones had been damaged by vandals or somebody had gotten into the Mausoleum who didn’t belong there.

I went there with Dad on a number of occasions and developed a fascination for obituaries, eulogies and epitaphs, and was asked by friends to ghost write them. They weren’t being funny. My eulogies were a little long, but the eulogizer had a captive audience. 

Obits are paid for by the word, so I kept them short. Epitaphs on tombstones are paid for by the letter and can be very expensive. You can imagine how expensive it was to bury Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior. (The longest name according to Guiness).

After I graduated from Journalism School, I suggested to a newspaper editor that there were book critics, movie critics, TV critics, show critics, art critics, restaurant critics, food critics …  critics for every artistic pursuit. 

“Why not critics who cover funerals, church and synagogue sermons, eulogies, obituaries and epitaphs?” I said. He said something like, “Killer of an idea,” but Obits are one of our biggest money-makers and we don’t want to offend anybody. Unfortunately I went to a lot of funerals.

Since moving to Arizona, I haven’t attended many funerals nor written many of the afore-mentioned. 

But on May 10, I attended the funeral of Noel Franklin Himes, a dear friend Margaret and I met after we moved to Arizona. We actually met Noel through his remarkable wife, Connie. And he was one of the kindest and finest people I ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I want to write just a few words about Noel.  
He was born six months before I was in Elmhurst, Illinois and lived most of his life in Greater Phoenix, AZ. His service was held in Messenger Mortuary where he worked as a Mortician for many years. And if I can go back for a moment to my idea of being a funeral critic, this was one of the best I ever attended. 

What made it so good was Noel Franklin Himes and a man who wasn’t there, but whose words were printed in the service “program.” His name is Michael Josephson. And what he wrote, titled WHAT WILL MATTER, set a perfect theme for the life of Noel Himes and the life of his amazing wife, Connie. 


by Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.

It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.

Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built,

not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched,

empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,

but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories but the memories of those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

©2003 (310) 846-4800 Michael Josephson

God bless you Noel. And to you Connie, a toast I have used many times:

May the happiest days of your past

be the saddest days of your future
and may the most you wish for be the least you get.

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