Our family spent the last week of 2017 saying good bye to my wife’s grandmother. She died just before Christmas at age 105. She was born in Colombia in a home without electricity, and at her final birthday party in Texas she was “facetiming” with her great-grandchildren. Her quality of life had diminished some, but she prospered until her final breath surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She laughed, sang, ate heartily and even enjoyed an occasional whiskey. At her funeral it struck me that she was at every birthday, graduation, first holy communion, wedding, and holiday gathering. That is all the evidence you need of a life well lived.
Funerals are very much for the living, not the dead. We need to mourn, and we need reasons to reflect. Listening to a eulogy, we hear the final summary of a life, and that causes us to consider what will be said of our own lives. If we have regrets in our final days, we know what they will be; not spending enough time with loved ones, not trying new things, not travelling, working too much, not being ourselves, not taking better care of our health. We hope what is said about our lives is that we had wisdom, faith, we were generous, we loved unconditionally, we embraced life, we achieved and overcame, we never met a stranger, etc.
So, we know. We know how we will measure our lives when the end is near. If you want to check your progress, try writing your own obituary. The exercise might reveal misplaced priorities or missed opportunities, it might also deeply impact your financial decisions. Life’s priorities become your financial priorities. I learned that working with great clients over the years. They may ask about tax strategies, investment advice or estate planning, but the real reason they want help has to do with taking care of the people they love and making an impact in this world. Learning from the wisdom of our clients is the best part of our business. We get to serve those who serve others.
Personally, I hope to make it to 105 or older with no regrets. I know that will take a lot of learning and reflection, so I will keep going to funerals.