When I was in high school, i went to 10 funerals in four years. It was very sad. There were funerals for teachers, parents of classmates, classmates and friends. I became very comfortable attending funerals and discussing death. My mom was 100% Irish. Irish people tend to have their funerals planned out years, if not decades, in advance. My mom did and we used to laugh about it!
When my mom passed away, I was 26 and pregnant with my first child. It was very sad. The shining light however, was the people. Many people that attended my mother’s funeral were there because they loved her. And, there were many people that were there because they loved me. Ever since then, I sort of became a serial funeral attendee. It wasn’t to be sad or feel sorry for myself. It was I wanted to “pay it forward” to people. Giving a hug, saying I understand and sometimes just being there can go a long way to provide support to people.
What was interesting were the lessons I learned. In attending funerals, I started to realize what was important. What is being said about that person? Of the people attending, what impact was had? It helped me put things into perspective. Hearing the life stories of people made me think about what my life story is. What do I want my life story to be? Going to a funeral, at least once per year, gave me perspective.
In 2015 I hired a professional business coach, Michael Regan of Building Champions. Part of the process when first starting with Building Champions is to write your obituary. Write out the story you want told at your funeral. Tell the world what you want said about you. It was a very powerful experience. The best part about writing my obituary is how easily it helped me make decisions about my life. It helps me with spending time on my work to help positively impact people’s lives with simple one liners. It helps me in my relationship with Chuck to keep our passion alive. It helps me make good choices about health and being a better mom.
Part of the process when writing your own obituary is to ready it at least once per month. I keep it on my desk and ready it regularly. When I go to a funeral, I am reminded of what I have written about my own obituary. Going to funeral once per year gives me great perspective. Making choices every day to make sure the story that is told at my funeral is legacy I choose to leave when I am gone.
What is vision?? Our brains tend to work in pictures. Today I am thinking of my dear friend, Nate Ellis and all the pictures in my mind of the memories we shared. Nate died at the early age of 39 after long fought battle with a debilitating disease. He is at peace now. Nate was my employee, my friend, my co-conspirator, my vision caster, my inspiration and my kick in the pants. Nate and I both had a passion for training, coaching and public speaking. Often as a public speaker, when so many have strong fear around public speaking, it is difficult to get constructive feedback. Nate and I helped each other to improve our skills as a trainer and speaker. I always valued his opinion and his feedback was invaluable.
Nate and I also shared a passion for listening to other speakers and trainers. We read a lot of the same books, went to events together and shared our thoughts on these events. One goal setting workshop reminded us that our mind works in pictures. The trainer told us, “Don’t think of jelly donuts!” What happens?? Immediately we started thinking of jelly donuts! Often people set goals of what they don’t want versus what they do. If I ask you to think of healthy food choices, most people think of a table filled with fresh and ripe fruits and vegetable, lean meats and whole grains. Then the Universe conspires to help us. Because our brains think in pictures, we easily are drawn to those healthy choices we saw in our mind.
After this session, Nate and I started to help each other stay focused on the positive images we wanted for ourselves. Words along with images have power. Nate was an inspiring trainer and speaker. He loved to sing and was often known for breaking out into a rendition of “danke shoen” at any given moment. We shared our visions and goals of being national public speakers and trainers. When Nate’s illness made it too difficult to continue with travel he was already well known as one of the best trainers of the National Association of Realtors. I loved to meet up with him after his travels to learn from him and share in his enthusiasm in living is passion. We had often joked that someday we would be “high-fiving” each other as one took the stage after the other. Even though Nate is in Heaven, released from his suffering, I am suffering and I miss my friend. I have promised to make Nate proud and to continue the vision that we had set out to achieve. As I continue to do speaking and training events, I will be taking a moment before each event to “high-five” Nate in special way in my heart. Nate Ellis…Danke Shoen for the gift of your life!