I love going to funerals.
Nothing transforms me as a person more than attending a funeral.
Nothing makes me want to grow, change and improve more than a funeral.
And I’m in good company. King Solomon, universally considered to be the “wisest of all men,” also loved funerals. In fact, he succinctly illustrated this with the eloquent statement: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2)
Last night I went to a stunning wedding and witnessed a young couple embark on a life together built upon Torah values and Jewish tradition. Of course I was moved and it was beautiful. But this morning I went to a funeral and it transformed me, leaving me with a burning desire to improve and develop myself.
Inevitably, when I hear children eulogize the parents I can’t help but ask myself:
- What will my children say about me at my funeral?
- Am I living my life with total commitment to the value and ideals that I hold dear?
- Am I the type of role model for my children that I yearn to be?
These feelings always stir a healthy discontent within and I left resolved to live with the integrity and commitment to the principles and ideals that I want my children to remember me by.
Today was no different. My Uncle Burt was a prince of a man. His children and grandchildren recounted his life and inspired a raptured gathering with vignettes telling of commitment, hard-work, dedication to principles and values, love, and respect.
Again, I overheard myself asking myself, “Do I display this level of commitment to my values? Do I conduct myself with the same degree of professionalism and integrity as Burt did? Do I demonstrate the same level of love and respect as my dear uncle did?”
How will I be remembered?
Will my eulogizers have the luxury of choosing from an endless overstock of anecdotes that illustrate my sterling character, like my cousins did yesterday when they lauded their father? Will they have a reservoir of examples of my spiritual and moral accomplishments to pick from? Or, will they have to vie for the first speaking slot to insure that other’s don’t usurp their one or two classic stories about me?
Walking out of that cemetery this morning, I was transformed with unparalleled clarity. Life is short, fragile and there is so much work to do. I must live each day of my life as the person who I long to be remembered as.
Have you ever felt that at a wedding?
“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.” I get it, King Solomon.
And, how many times have you been to a funeral when you left with the empty pit in your stomach, kicking yourself for not having made a greater effort to get to know a person who could have taught you so much? And now, it’s too late.
We have so many gems in our midst. We squander too many opportunities to really become intimate with people who can impact us and help us to grow in so many ways.
As I left the cemetery this morning, with so many thoughts racing through my mind, one of them was: Who can I reach out to in my own extended family who will help me grow as a father, a husband, a man of integrity?
I love going to funerals.
But we should only have simchas, experiences of true joy and happiness.
DavidTags: death, funerals, growth, inspiration
Posted on: Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Author: Rabbi David
About: For more and more students in the Chicago area, Rabbi David is like a personal tour guide into the world of Jewish thought. He is passionate about elucidating timeless Jewish texts to the contemporary mind and leading each student on his or her own personal spiritual journey. His inspiring and insightful teaching style, coupled with his sense of humor and warm approach, has attracted hundreds of students since he began teaching on the North Shore 12 years ago. Rabbi David and Ali have five children, and currently reside in West Rogers Park in Chicago.