A few days a go a friend of over forty years died suddenly.
Her children asked me to give her eulogy.Naturally, since we had known each other since we were single in our twenties there was some necessary filtering. As I thought about what to say and wrote and rewrote it struck me how I had nothing to say about how “successful” she was. Everyone there knew she had her Doctorate and most knew she was Chairman of her Department. Her accomplishments had little to do with her passion for life, her amazing resilience in the face of tough times and her generosity toward all people.As we live in a culture where we can speak with pride of “accomplishments,” it is interesting that I had no thoughts of how that made her important. Wit and wisdom, love and generosity,faith, hope and charity these are the items that came into my head. Her love of her children,family and friends, her refusal to be boxed in by her roles, her willingness to laugh at herself and with me about a long list of bizarre life experiences was noteworthy, but not her success.
I had never given a eulogy and I was concerned about following the minister who had done this sort of thing many times and he had the Bible to lean on for extra lines. I had my knowledge and experience with my friend. After writing and staying up practically all night, I just let it go and the words flowed with love and light in a way I feel good about. I feel happy that I was able to honor my friend and I will miss her all my days, but it was a reminder that it is who we are in relationship that really matters, not what our resume or external packaging says.
What makes someone important to us is their capacity to love and their willingness to share who they are. What set my friend apart from many was her ability to spring back from loss and injury. Death of a fiance’, hit by a drunk driver and put in a wheelchair for the last twenty-five years of her life, divorce, and numerous health battles that came all in one fateful night. She believed in making the best of a bad situation, giving people the benefit of the doubt and she reveled in the love of her children and her friends. How much more successful can a person be?