- How old was he?
- How did he die?
- Did he suffer at the end?
- Was his family with him?
- Various versions of: Who is he leaving behind? How are they doing?
These are all worthwhile questions. They show how much we care.
They also provide a small glimpse into our future, and the future of the people we love and care about. We will each take our final breath someday. It’s just a question of when and how.
These questions do more to quench the morbid curiosity we have about our own future than to learn about the life of the person who just died.
We used to receive a local monthly newspaper. I was always fascinated by the stories in the obituary section. Each person had a story. An arc through time. Milestones. Achievements. Lives they touched. But, these were merely stories someone else had written to encapsulate an entire lifetime into a few paragraphs of highlights.
It’s impossible to capture someone’s life in a few paragraphs or even an entire book.
Our lives aren’t just a series of events and milestones. They’re an almost infinite collection of moments.
Moments that often seem trivial when they happen, but are anything but trivial. These moments would probably never make the “highlight reel.” These are the moments that (with the benefit of hindsight) are turning points in our life, and the lives of the people we touch.
Our lives are also a feeling. An energy. An impression we leave behind. It’s not tangible, and it can’t be seen or touched. But, it touches everyone around us. It’s something they can only describe with a far-away look in their eyes when we’re gone.
The questions we ask when someone dies miss what really matters.
I’d like to add some new ones:
- What are the moments you shared with him that you remember most?
- What stories did he tell you?
- Which stories had the most impact on you?
- How did he make you feel when you were around him?
- How did he impact the direction your life is going?
- What did you learn from him and the way he lived his life?
- What type of energy did he bring to your life?
- What impression did he make on you?
- What comes to your mind whenever you think about him, now that he’s gone?
And, one final question to consider while we’re still here:
How will those that you love and care about answer these questions after you’re gone?