What stories will they tell?

Stories are all we'll leave


About 152,000 people will die in the world today. Sounds gloomy, but 360,000 will be born to take their place. 360,000 new stories in the making.

The deaths mean that in the next week or so there will be 152,000 funerals. There will also be the 1,000,000 funerals of the people who died in the last week and another 1,000,000 or so picked up as we get into the week. I hope one of them isn’t yours or for someone you love, but let’s face up to it, what are the chances?

But how many stories?

If there are on average 50 people at a funeral – attendances range from two (only the gravediggers) to 15,000,000 (the funeral of CN Annadurai, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu in Chennai, in 1959, to the billions who attended Princess Diana’s funeral via television) – there will be 100,000,000 stories told about single individuals this week.

Not all the stories will be happy

A funeral director I know was asked to conduct the funeral of a particularly nasty bloke. All he could say in kindness was, ‘Dan was a difficult man’ and then went on to give the family a few pointers about how to recover from him.

Some funerals are desperately sad.

I went to the funeral of my friends’ baby who died on Christmas eve, just two days old. I thought at the time my mate would break in half; his wife a fragile wilted flower. There were no stories. There weren’t even any words.

I’m going to a funeral myself today.

The guest of honour – and I mean it just like that – was a robust fellow. He was eager, convivial, generous, forgiving and positive and He will be missed and mourned; no doubt about that. But his wife has invited us to what she calls a celebration of his life. People will be sad and cry I know and that will be appreciated but the program will be anecdotes about his droll wit, his creative building projects, his generosity and many, many kind acts. There will be stories; our stories about his stories. I can’t wait.

What will they say at yours?

I hear people say. ‘I won’t be there, so why should I care?’ If that’s a true reflection of their attitude, I guess no-one else needs care either. I think it’s a bit of a cover-up for the fear of dying all the same.

But let’s be straight. You don’t want to leave your family and friends to have to walk on eggshells lest anyone mention your dodgy qualities. For their sakes, you want the occasion and their ongoing memory of you to be replete with nothing but tales of your honesty, generosity, kindness, goodness, peace of mind, creativity, wit, warmth and above all, love.

I do.

So today we had best fill the hours with all of them so they stick out like the Luxor Lamp in Las Vegas.

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