COMMENTARY: Live Backwards

Ben just came to town as a new rabbi. Unfortunately, his first official duty was to conduct a funeral service for Albert, a man who died in his eighties with no relatives. Since Ben didn’t know the deceased personally, he paused from his sermon to ask if anyone in the congregation would say something good about Albert. There was no response. Ben asked again: “Many of you knew Albert for years, surely someone can say something nice.” After an uncomfortable pause, a voice from the back of the room said, “Well, his brother was worse.”

If you died tomorrow, what would people say about you? Would it make you proud of the way you lived and the choices you made? Thinking about the legacy we leave can help us keep our priorities straight. Few people would be satisfied with an epitaph like: “She always got what she wanted.” Or “He never missed a deadline.”

There’s an old saying, “If you want to know how to live your life, think about what you’d like people to say about you after you die . . . and live backwards.” The idea is that we earn our eulogy by our everyday choices.

In his book, When Everything You Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, Harold Kushner writes: “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter, so that the world will be at least a little bit different for our having passed through it.”

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that, in the end, character counts.

Comments 8

    1. JB – what was the point of your comment? Disgruntled against all New Yorkers that day? Was this in some way supposed to enlighten us to the topic at hand? Or are you simply just so bored you go from site to site making nonsensical comments to give yourself a thrill. You must be a very sad person, I pity you. Today I will pray for you to be a happier, better person.

  1. JVF, not sure why you felt the need to scold JB; the comment could be taken as a compliment. In the commentary, “Ben” stepped up to the plate and pushed for something positive to be said about the deceased. How is attributing that to “New Yorkers” a bad thing? Folks that live/work in “The Big Apple” aren’t exactly known for being wishy-washy or pushovers…

    1. Thank you, Jim. There is more than one way to interpret most things. I’m not a pitiful person. I’m blessed with the many abundances of life! I don’t do the things that JVF implies that I do. And I don’t go around praying for everyone else to straighten up and be more like me. I have enough to pray for if I just pray to be a better person myself.

  2. For me, I think Will Rogers summed it up best,

    “What constitutes a life well spent, anyway? Love and admiration from your fellow men is all that any one can ask. – 9 August 1925”

    I think Mr. Josephson’s message is right on target. It is easy to live your life doing mischief and creating chaos, it is much harder to live your life as though it is your last day and you want to leave the world a better place. Your life is like gold, spend it wisely.

  3. I have always liked Steven Covey’s advise to write your obituary today and then begin to live it today, (or something like that).

Leave a Reply to Wayne Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *