Wise Words of the Day: How Do We Want to be Remembered?

“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”  ~Mark Twain



Image courtesy of Paul Malon on Flickr.com

A long time ago, when I was still teaching lifespan human development to future teachers, I would start the semester with Death and Dying rather than the traditional Prenatal Development.  My students’ first assignment–given the first day of class and due at the next class meeting–was to write their own eulogy and epitaph.  To say that the “tourists” would drop out in a hurry would be an understatement (“tourist” is the nickname I gave to the students who were just planning on coming to the first few classes to see if they wanted to stay in it or not…they were usually looking to see if they could get an easy “A”).  My students thought I was a bit nuts and I can’t say that I blame them.

At the second class meeting, I would explain why we were starting with Death and Dying and why they had to complete that first assignment.  You see, I wanted them to think about how they wanted their students to remember them.  Once they started to figure that out, then they could start deciding what kind of teacher they wanted to be.  You might say that their eulogy contained their “learning objectives” for their professional lives.

When my father passed away almost 15 years ago, his former students lined up to describe how “Doc” had helped them turn their lives around.  Many of them pointed out that they had become pastors or teachers because of him.  I know my next younger sister, Jan, changed careers and became a teacher as a result of the impact our father had on these former students’ lives.  (Click here to read a Los Angeles Times interview with him about his impending retirement in 1990).

Me?  I want to be remembered as someone who cared deeply for others and made a difference in people’s lives.  It is why I do what I do at the university and why I write my blogs.  Based on the feedback I’ve received, I think I’m on the right path.

How do you want to be remembered?

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Dr. Julie-Ann

I'm Dr. Julie-Ann, living life in its Technicolor finest by channeling my Grandma, Donna Reed, and June Cleaver with a bit of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly glamour thrown in for good measure, too. I work outside of the home full-time as a university administrator but I nourish my soul and find my greatest happiness by trying to be the "perfect" 1950s homemaker.

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    I have chosen to lead a life that works behind the scenes. I rest comfortably knowing that I have been faithful over a few things. That’s all I can ever do.

    I applaud those who really make a difference and will be remembered. However, many good citizens of the world are forgotten before they die. A part of the reason I read this blog is because it reinforces nobility of character, which is often unsung in the world.

    A poor wise man saved the city.
    Kathy Warnock recently posted.."What are you doing today?"My Profile

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    Dr. Julie-Ann says

    I agree with the “behind the scenes” aspect of making a difference in people’s lives. There are some people who make a difference front and center but, for most of us, being the “salt of the earth” brings tremendous satisfaction.

    I view my mentoring role as a behind the scenes kind of thing. I’m the one that those working directly with students or their families can turn to for support. And that’s the way I like it. :)

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    I often did not think about my impact on the rest of the world – I was just living my life as I thought was the correct way. One day my eyes were opened when I was told that I had inspired some other women to go ahead & pursue their dreams in life, too. What a surprise! Then I did try to pay more attention to those who might be influenced by my life. But to put it more forthright I am one of those very lucky people who know that their life’s work will impact others and, not only others in my spere, but the whole world. 100 years from now no one will know who I was, but they will know what I did to help preserve the world’s food in the form of the seed genome work that I did. Pretty good, I think for someone who never wanted climb any corporate ladders, never wanted to have “million dollars”, and never wanted to have but a happy life, healthy children & grandchildren, and a wonderful life partner.
    OK, I know that it is “tooting my own horn”, but to my eternal amazement, I know it is true.
    Do know that everyone influences others, just make sure yours is in a positive way.
    drMolly recently posted..No interweb for last weekMy Profile

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    Lisa says

    The photo in this thread really got my attention because I work at a funeral home. I work with some of the kindest, most compassionate people I have ever worked with. They are also the wackiest (behind the scenes, never in front of families). But it is a way for them to burn off steam because of the toll the job takes on them some days,as anyone could understand.

    As for me, well, I do a lot of volunteer work supporting the troops serving in the war. I donate items for care packages and every year I sew Christmas stockings for them. I include, in each stocking and each load of care package items, notes of support and encouragement. I want them to know that they are not forgotten and that our family appreciates all of their dedication and sacrafice.

    So, for me, if one Soldier, Airman, Sailor or Marine remembers one of the notes I sent and remembers, years from now, that a family in the USA kept them in their prayers and appreciated all they did when they were at war, that will be enough for me.

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    Lyn A says

    Oh Julie you always are right on topic. Thank you.
    I think I will write my eulogy, they say what ever you believe will be.