What would your final message be to those you love? This conclusive message is the greatest piece of work that you will ever have the opportunity to produce. It is a culmination of every decision, every experience, and the result of every single moment of your life. Your entire existence on earth, summed up in only thirty minutes.
Imagine this scenario for just one moment with me. The stage is set, the big moment has arrived, your final message is about to be delivered. It has been reworked, rewritten, revised, and refined for decades. Nerves are unsteady, knees are weak. Sweaty hands are latched onto the sides of the podium, catching one last look at the worn out set of notes sitting on top of it. Eyes slowly lift up from them to peer out over a perfectly silent audience, the message begins.
There is one catch…you are not delivering the message. It’s a brother/sister, son/daughter, spouse, co-worker, former student, player you coached, an employee you impacted, or your pastor that will deliver your final message. What would they say? Would it align with the message we intended to be delivered?
In this week’s post, we look at five ways to craft a meaningful final message:
Begin with the End in Mind
Stephen Covey said, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.” Beginning with the end in mind means living your life in such a way that your final message will be a worthy representation of who you were.
In books, many authors write an epilogue. Epilogues are essentially the author’s summary of the Story. In literature, authors get to write their own summary of the story. In life, we do not get the same luxury. Someone else will write the summary of our story when we are gone. What sources will they cite, what content have you given them to work with?
While your final message is typically written on sheets of paper, the pen in which they write your final message is the way you lived your life. The people you have impacted, the worlds you have changed. We don’t get the opportunity to go back and change the final message once it is delivered. It is never too late to do good things while the message is being drafted, it sure does limit the protentional impact we can have on others and the world we live in.
Single Words to Remember
I have spoken at several funerals of people who have impacted my life. It can be an intimidating and pressure filled responsibility to be the one to share someone else’s final message. I find that the easiest way for me to start drafting the message is by asking family, friends, or reflecting myself on this question. What are the single words that come to mind when you think of this person?
There is a thoughtfulness, deep meaning, and level of honesty in single word responses. You can’t elaborate, you can’t justify, they mean what they mean. As the tears and words start flowing, the message begins to be crafted. It usually generates a message of the person being labeled as compassionate, loving, caring, supportive, loyal, funny, patient, kind, strong, intentional, forgiving, and/or thoughtful. So…if we asked the people closest to you, what single words would they use to describe you? Which ones would rise to the top?
How You Make People Feel
Kindness can be a lost art in a world full of division, strong opinions, and isolated viewpoints. Our words and actions can either tear people down, or build them up, it’s just a matter of how we put them to use. Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This couldn’t be truer and should serve as a daily reminder of how we make people feel.
A few weekends ago at church, my pastor Mike Linch, asked us this question to stir reflection, “Are people glad to see you come…or glad to see you go?” The answer to that question should either be extremely affirming or as a stark reminder that on your final day it could be difficult to find someone willing to deliver your final message.
Spend Time on the Message
The people attending your funeral will in some way be impacted by your life. The strongest testament to that impact is in the form of tears. We should spend our life investing in and spend as much time as possible with those that will cry at our funeral. Those people are our family, closest friends, and those whose lives we Interceded.
Nothing in your final message will be dedicated to the extraordinary amount of time you spent at work. The message will be formed with how you spent your time on earth. Time is the most valuable, yet limited resource we have to give to others. We should spend more of that valuable resource with those who will shed a tear that day than those who won’t even be present to hear the message.
I think we could all agree that we live in a crazy, busy, and distracting world. It is extremely easy for me to write this blog and suggest that you spend time with those that will cry at your funeral. It’s even easier to tell someone they should be present while doing so.
The easier part is scheduling the time. We can schedule a variety of experiences that allocate time, but the real challenge is being present, at least it is for me. My mind wonders with time, the next deadline creeps in, the tough conversation that needs to be had, or the crisis of the day commands our focus. Being present is not easy by any means, but can be the greatest gift you can give to those who will deliver your final message.
There is a great video you can find on YouTube called the Last Lecture. I had the privilege of getting exposed to this video a little over ten years ago and it has significantly impacted my life. Dr. Randy Pausch taught at Carnegie Mellon University. There was a tradition at the school called the Last Lecture that professors would give. The basis of the exercise was, if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you say to the students? Dr. Pausch’s Last Lecture had a different perspective, because he had received a terminal diagnosis of his cancer.
The speech has always challenged me to think of my life through this lens, this unique perspective. This post takes it a step further because someone else will deliver the message for you. While sad, it inspires me to live a life daily that crafts that message I want everyone in attendance to hear on that day.
The people we love and lead are the messages that we will send forth to generations of people that we will never see or know. Very few people reach a status in this brief life to be remembered by the history books, but every single one of us has an awesome opportunity to positively influence the people closest to us to leave our mark on the future. Use these special people as a writing instrument to develop a beautiful message to be delivered by someone else on that inevitable day.
What will your final message contain and who will be there to listen?