In the Living Years

As I was using this period of the COVID-19 Pandemic to de-clutter at home, I came across a stack of funeral programs. They were all filled with glowing and emotional tributes to the deceased persons. While reading a few of them, I found myself wondering why we wait until a person dies before we write these beautiful and moving words about them. Why didn’t we write these tributes and give it to them while they were alive? 

As you know, everyone loves compliments. We love it when others show appreciation to us. It makes us feel good. As Maya Angelo says, in part “…… people always remember how you make them feel”. In cases where we modestly say in response to compliments or show of gratitude, “oh it’s nothing” or “you don’t need to thank me”. Deep in our hearts, we feel good! Let’s look at some of the benefits we would derive from giving our tributes to family and friends while they are alive. 

The words contained in the tribute gives a “feel good” effect on the person receiving it. It gives that person something to smile about. This simple act of smiling can release tension in the body, lift the spirit and even helps with better sleep. When we receive compliments or recognition we are more inclined to continue doing the act for which we have been recognized. 

The fact that we are receiving tributes while we are alive makes us want to examine our lives, be true to ourselves, reflect on our relationships and find ways to fix those we honestly want to fix. We also would be less judgmental and would stop taking so much for granted. It is akin to looking at ourselves in the mirror. These tributes that we give at funerals could come in handy to the individual while alive in times when they are feeling down and doubtful of themselves. The tributes could become the perfect “pick me up pill” in such times. Consider creating a file for all the tributes you receive. Read them over from time to time and watch your life improve! 

The author of the tribute benefits in similar ways as the recipient. Because of the amount of reflection that goes into writing it, the author cannot help but also reflect on his/her own life. Questions like, how have I impacted those around me? Where can I improve? What will my family and friends say in their tribute about me? Most of all, there is a good feeling and satisfaction you get when you give or say something nice to someone

Many years ago I wrote a thank you letter to my mother. I started out writing it for myself but as I progressed I realized I was writing it for my siblings as well. Every time we were together, we would recount the things Mama had done for us and marvelled at how she did it. We doubted if we could. In the letter I thanked her for all the love and care, the values she instilled in us, single-handedly putting us through school, being our counsellor and prayer warrior in our adult years. I mailed it to her. When I visited her afterwards, she told me how she cried after reading it and how happy it made her feel knowing we appreciated what she had done for us. She said, “I give what I have”. I never expected such an emotional reaction. I was so overcome with so much emotion. She referred to the letter every time I visited her. When she died, I found it among her most important documents. There was no other letter. I am so glad I told her, “in the living years”.  Take a look at the people in your life. Who would you write a tribute for, if they died today? What does this person mean to you? How has he/she impacted your life? What do you like about him/her? What will you always remember about this person? What lessons have you learned from him/her? How has this person made you feel? 

Only a few tributes make it into the funeral program, and although family and friends feel great pride in reading your tribute, why not present it also to the deceased person when he/she is alive? And so I ask you, who will you write your first tribute to, “in the living years?

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