By Jerry Bellune
After our mother died, my sister and I arranged with her minister to hold a memorial service at her church one Sunday after the regular worship service.
We arranged it at that time for the convenience of those in her Sunday school class and other elderly friends who would find it easier to attend.
We were surprised and delighted by the number of friends, some generations younger than our mother, who crowded into the church chapel. What was even more inspiring were the memories they shared with us, telling of thoughtful things our mother had done for them. That was news to us.
It made us wonder what our friends might say about us when we are gone.
A true story
Our friend Michael Aun received a call from his 92-year old high school football coach recently. Coach Ingram called to ask Michael if he would give the eulogy at his funeral.
Coach Ingram is an articulate man who looks more like a college professor than a gridiron general. He had been one of the top high school football coaches in America. In 33 years of coaching, his Lexington High School teams had won more than 220 games including three state championships.
"Coach, are you about to die?" Michael asked.
"No," he responded, "but when I do, I want you to be the man who does my eulogy."
"There must be dozens of guys you coached over the years who went on to become priests, rabbis or ministers," Michael said. "Why not choose one of them?"
"I've outlived them all," Coach Ingram said. "I'm down to motivational speakers, and you're the only one I know."
Michael not only played football for Coach Ingram but wrote about him as sports editor of our newspaper in Lexington. Michael even won an award for his reporting on Ingram's teams of overachievers.
Michael sat down at his home in Florida, wrote a eulogy and mailed it to Coach Ingram in South Carolina.
Coach called to say he appreciated it but politely added that he wanted to hear it.
Always obliging, Michael sat down with a tape recorder, recorded the eulogy for Coach Ingram's funeral and dropped it in the mail. Several days later, Coach called him in tears.
He said he could hardly wait to hear the real thing.
This made Michael think that he should be planning his own eulogy.
What would you want someone to say about you and your accomplishments at your funeral?
In my writing classes, my students' first assignment is to write their own obituaries.
It's a great exercise for any of us.
It helps us focus on our values, our goals and all of the things we would like to accomplish in life. Think about it.
Here are four questions you should consider.
1. What are my values?
2. What would I like to achieve before it's all over?
3. What would I need to accomplish to make a difference to the people I love?
4. What could I do to leave this world a better place when I'm gone?
Jerry Bellune is an award-winning newspaper editor and author of books on sales, leadership and personal performance. He coaches top executives to help them in their quests for challenging goals. He new book on ethical leadership, "Lead People, Manage Things", will be published this fall. You can subscribe to his FREE e-letter "Power Up for Success" at www.JerryBellune.com