Aging

3 ways to inspire your eulogy


P1590255Life is finite.

Death is certain.

Hard, cold facts, whether we like it or not.

“The Fear of death is the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”~Mark Twain

It’s clear to me that death’s not the enemy many people make it out be – while not living while you can IS!

I know I’ve blogged about this subject before, and I’m sure I will again.

I make no apology for wanting to help people to embrace life in whatever way is possible. That’s why I’m a Life Coach!

Attending your own funeral

I recently had the opportunity to attend a close family member’s funeral in a ‘virtual’ capacity. This meant I could see what was happening, watch everyone there (though admittedly they did appear a little fuzzy), and hear the words they’d each chosen to remember the person by, and then watch a slideshow of images of their life through their family and friends’ eyes.

I was neither seen nor heard, but people there were aware of my presence.

It was amazing, the wonders of modern technology never cease to astound me.

At the same time, it was rather unnerving and got me thinking …

I felt that if there’s any possibility at all of us watching over our loved ones after our demise, and listen to how they ‘saw’ us during their time with us, it could look and feel a little like that.

This really got me wondering what my own funeral may look and sound like, if I were to leave this earthly body today, tomorrow, next week or next year.

What would my loved ones say? What images of my life would they choose? Have I made a positive difference to people’s lives in some small way? Have I grasped available opportunities to make the most of my life?

Have you ever taken some time to imagine what YOUR loved would ones say about you?

Your Eulogy

How would it feel to take some time to sit and reflect on your life to date?

“A life without cause is a life without effect.” ~Paulo Coelho

Are you following your heart’s desires, or holding onto frustrations and regrets from the past – maybe there’s things you want to do, places to visit, people you want to meet?

One of the people speaking at the funeral told a story about something that had happened many years ago, that they’d not felt able to share with the person before they died. Is there anything you’re holding on to, that you could share with someone close to you NOW, instead of leaving it until after they’re gone?

Do you love the work you do, the people surrounding you day-to-day, and the life you’re leading? If so fantastic. Hold onto it. Enjoy the feeling. Celebrate each morning with a smile and an intention to share that peace of mind and happiness with others.

Conversely, if you have to drag yourself out of bed each day, and turn up to your current ‘job’ expecting to have an awful day/night, or wish each day for a different life, then maybe it’s time to consider how you can change either your job, your location or your attitude?

I know an amazing coach who could help with the ‘job’ aspect – The Dream Job Coach , Louise Jenner – if that sounds like you!

I believe there’s always a solution, sometimes we’re just looking in the wrong place.

I’d like to think that seizing the day and living fully are values I’ve held dear and lived by whenever possible. Of course it hasn’t always been so. When I had a large mortgage and two children to bring up as a single parent, my options were fairly limited. At the same time, I do feel I took opportunities to spend time with friends and family, to travel to places I’d never been before, to delight in experiences that cost little but gave much.

I did still though allow parts of my ‘her’story to limit me for many years. Maybe I continue to do so occasionally, but I’m certainly much more aware of this happening now and so able to change my thoughts accordingly.

Three ways to live fully and inspire your eulogy

Having been coaching clients for three years now, and undertaken my own life-changing coaching journey, a few common themes stand out to me which people often allow to limit them living fully.

  1. Change to the person you want to be – Rather than believing that in order to be happy someone in your life needs to change, always remember that the only person you can change is YOU. People around you will mirror your reactions, your attitude and outlook on life. If you want more happiness, peace of mind and love, then be happy, peaceful and loving.
  2. Get over your self – We all have a story, the messages and images from our past that we allowed (and often continue to allow) influential people to give to us. Listening to these stories as a life coach is an honour. It’s also amazing how similar these tales are – we keep them locked inside of us most of the time, imagining ours must be worse than anyone else’s, because they’re leading such a happy life they must’ve had a wonderful childhood. Generally this is not so! It’s all a matter of what we do with what and where we’ve been, and who we’ve yet to be.
  3. Seize each day – If not now, when? What is it that you’ve always wanted to do, and keep saying “One day I’ll …”. What one small step can you take, TODAY, that will lead you to where you want to go. Imagine the outcome you want, see it as if it’s really happening to you, then break it down into manageable chunks. It’s like that old saying of how do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time. Most things are possible, once we take the I’M out of IMpossible.

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If you want any support to change your story and increase the chances of your  life story sounding the way you want it to, if you were able to listen in at your funeral, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

And feel free to share a short eulogy of your life to date below – and/or how you intend to change it.

If you’re happy with the sound of it now, what or who inspires/ed you to live fully each day and not fear death …

If today was the last day of your life, would you be doing what you’re doing?


Death - the only certainty of life

Death – the only certainty of life

“Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.” ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

“I wish I could stand on a busy corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours.” ~Bernard Berenson

There’s an abundance of quotes available about making the most of life.

I often wonder what it would take for some people to realise that the choice to live it fully everyday is primarily theirs.

Granted, our circumstances and upbringing will have an affect on our choices, but at the end of the day, we can choose to be limited by them, or we can discover the gifts we’ve gained on our journeys, and use them wisely.

Death as an agent of change 

I’m extremely fortunate in that I’ve only ‘lost’ my grandparents – no-one else in my immediate family has had any serious illnesses or died.

I have however, had the experience of friends dying.

One in particular, in her 40th year, had a huge impact on me. I remember the shock that someone I’d only recently spent time with, could suddenly be gone, never to be seen again. Her death was one of the decision makers in my choice of travel to New Zealand initially in 2001.

“The more side roads you stop to explore, the less likely that life will pass you by”. ~Robert Brault

In 2005, I met the man I would marry in 2009. His first wife had sadly died in 2003, also at the age of 40 (ironically isn’t that when life is supposed to begin?). It took a long time after we got together for him to commit to me, he’d never imagined a life without her. Once he did make the choice, he opened up to so many opportunities to make the most of life, knowing from personal experience how suddenly it could all end.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain

Living before you die

In June 2005, at a Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, talked about pursuing our dreams and being open to the opportunities in life’s setbacks. It’s an amazingly inspiring presentation,  titled ‘How to live before you die‘.

The part that really resonated with me, was that he looked in the mirror every day, and asked himself “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’  If the answer was ‘No’ too many times in a row, he knew it was time to change something.

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.” ~Marie Ray

Writing your eulogy

If you could write our own eulogy, what would it say?

I was recently touched by another untimely death. A midwifery colleague who’d been instrumental in bringing the option of water births to the West Midlands area, and possibly to the UK and elsewhere, through her unwavering passion and purpose.

She’d heard about the concept at a study day, and from that had made it her mission to find out more and introduce it to the Trust she worked at. The results of her three-year audit ‘The Tide Has Turned‘, was published in The British Journal of Midwifery in 1998.

Sadly I didn’t get to see her before she died, but I did send a letter to the Hospice which was read to her on the eve of her death. I told her what an inspiration she was, how she’d made an indelible difference to the lives of so many midwives and childbearing women and their families. Her daughter phoned me the next day to tell me she’d passed away, and that they’d all been touched and comforted by the words I’d written.

Why had I waited so long? Why hadn’t I made more effort to contact her while she was alive when I’d heard she was unwell in April? I guess my own life took over, with the huge changes I was making this year, and the priority of spending time with my family. So that’s ok. But it did motivate me to set up a Facebook Group for people who had worked in the maternity department at the Trust, and many people from that wrote heartwarming tributes too.  Now we can keep in touch, rather than wait until someone else dies before telling them how amazing they are.

Talking about death

I’m intrigued about the ways we talk of death, if we even venture to do so.

I have a fascination with graveyards, and reading headstones. People ‘pass away’, are ‘lost’, they ‘go to sleep’, rarely do they ‘die’. Why is that? I’m a member of an organisation called Dying Matters , which helps to get the concept of embracing our own mortality out into the world. Death seems to have overtaken sex as the taboo subject.

Delving into the book ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven‘, you can explore how things you do or say, actions you take or neglect, can potentially have a life-chaging effect on others, even though you may not be aware of it at the time.

“Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely.” ~Thomas P. Murphy

Points to consider

  1. Don’t wait until you’re dying before you start living – be wary of delaying your ‘bucket list’ until that ‘magical age’ of retirement (the one governments and employers keep changing!). Many people don’t make it that far.
  2. How frequently do you tell the people who are important to you, how much they mean to you – and why.
  3. Are there people who’ve made a positive impact on your life, that you can talk to and tell them – now, before it’s too late?
  4. How will you be remembered? What would you like your eulogy to say?
  5. If you’re not living the life of your dreams, what steps can you take towards that path, and who can support you along the way?

Live each day fully

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Don't delay - live today!

Don’t delay – live today!

My daughter recently sent this image and caption to me – that’s how I plan to grow older, and just in case I don’t make it that far, I love surprising people frequently.

If you want a supportive coach to challenge you to change and awaken to living each day fully, please get in touch and see if I can walk alongside you (go to my contact me page to book a suitable time and day).

Are you stuck in your story? Ways to get out of the drama …


What's the drama of your story?

What’s the drama of your story?

They fuck you up your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

I recall reading that poem (along with another two verses) during the decade of my thirties. It was part of my ‘scrapbook’ of inspirational quotes, sayings and articles which served to motivate me as I did my best to bring my two daughters up ‘successfully’ as a single parent, while shift working as a midwife. Looking back, I’m not sure at the time I REALLY appreciated the meaning of the words. I did, however, sense their importance and hoped I wasn’t filling my children with too many of my ‘faults’!

Those children are now inspiring and beautiful adults. One of them is a parent themselves (meaning I’m a grand-mother), whilst my parents are amazingly still alive at 93 and 80 years old. I’m very aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to spend time with these special people, and continue to explore some of the limiting beliefs I’ve formed over the years.

One of these, from my perception of my father’s authoritarian position, is ‘I’m powerless’. Now he’s the one who’s relatively powerless, and my life has brought me to a place where I can support him to retain some control over his finances and destiny.  Ironically, my younger sister and I have recently signed a lasting power of attorney for if/when he becomes incapable of financial decision making.

Identifying life’s gifts amongst the drama

As my relationships strengthen and grow, with my parents, children and grandchildren, I find myself reflecting on the sentiment expressed by Mr Larkin in a much deeper way. However, I’m also recognising the importance of identifying all the gifts my parents gave me – which are varied and numerous.

Returning from NZ the first time, in 2002, I vividly recall my sudden realisation that all the striving, proving and working so hard since leaving my second husband, had been to show my dad that I was ‘good enough’ to replace the son he’d always wanted, that I wasn’t a ‘failure’ because I was born a female. I could see how much I’d missed out on by trying to be everything to everybody, thinking that if I was ‘the best’ midwife, was endlessly promoted, earned more and more money, that he’d love me. Of course this wasn’t his ‘fault’, of course he loved me, it was merely the drama I’d concocted for myself.

Since March 2011, during my ‘Holistic Life Coaching’ training and subsequently with every client I’ve had the pleasure of coaching, my story and theirs are heard and reflected upon.

It’s such a huge honour to listen to people, and realise how immensley powerful these stories have become, and what meanings we’ve given to them.

From birthing babies, and empowering midwives and women along the way, I’ve changed direction to support people to birth a new life for themselves; one that serves and nourishes them.

Now in my fifties, I find myself reflecting with my three sisters too; discovering what meaning they’ve given and carried along from their childhood, and why.

It’s fascinating!

Because when we break it down, however ‘traumatic’ and/or ‘dramatic’ we each believe our individual story to be, there will always be someone else who feels they’ve ‘had it worse’ than you.

And then, when you look at the stories your parents could have manifested into their lives which shaped and limited them, you can begin to look on the poem in yet another way.

If you can ‘get over your self’ even more, and focus on what you gained from your childhood, however ‘bad’ it may have seemed, you can enable those to strengthen and lessen the power of the drama.

Getting out of the drama

It’s not about making excuses, or feeling sorry for your parents, it’s about:

  • Standing in their shoes to feel how it would have been to walk their respective journeys
  • Accepting that we’re all human and therefore prone to fallibility
  • Realising we do the best we can, with what we know, and which resources are available to us at that time and place
  • Allowing ourselves to let go of the need to ‘hang on tight’ to staying stuck in the drama of our story
  • Reflecting on why we believed what we did and how it helped us to feel ‘safe’ at the time
  • Seeing all the amazing love and gifts your parents DID give you
  • Loving your self first and foremost, then finding it in your heart to love your parents in spite of what you feel they did or didn’t do for or to you
  • Making the most of this life – because for things to change in the ways you desire, YOU need to change

Choosing to change

We may not realise it, but we all have a choice to change.

We may believe our happiness is dependant on others, and once they change, our lives will be different and/or better.

But they have their own stories to work through and let go of.

We are responsible for getting out of our own dramas.

Alternatively we may choose to remain there, acting out the victim role and blaming everyone and everything else for whatever happened and continues to happen ‘to’ us.

Looking back, what have you made the story of your life mean to you? And importantly, what will you choose for the next chapter – and why?