When you attend a memorial do you take the opportunity to learn from a family member’s, friend’s, or even a stranger’s passing?

Recently I attended a memorial for a man I’d never met. He was the husband of a co-worker of my husband; neither of us had met him but we wanted to be there to support her through this rough time.

I am no stranger to funerals or memorials: I’ve been to many to celebrate the life of someone who passed, including my own Mother’s passing 13 years ago. Via this event and others I’ve found many life lessons work learning.

Life Lesson #1: If your “stuff” is causing you stress, clean house!

News of this man’s passing came on a day when we were preparing for a garage sale. I was overwhelmed by all the stuff in the garage, which looked as though an explosion had happened inside it, and I felt my husband wasn’t spending his time wisely as he built shelving in rather than get sale items ready.

When I saw the email about this man’s death—and the memorial arrangements for a man who was only 49, had two kids and a wonderful wife—it brought clear focus into was really important. I apologized to my husband and told him if our “stuff”  was causing stress and unhappiness we needed to get rid of more of it (ruthlessly).

What to do: Is your stuff causing stress in your life? If so, it’s time to clean house. This will allow you to focus on what is truly important by getting rid of the stuff that you really don’t need.

Life Lesson #2: Make Time for Major Life Events

The memorial was scheduled for the day that we were actually to participate in that neighborhood garage sale. We had been looking forward to this for a year and had a lot of stuff to let go, but there was no question that we were going to the memorial and not participating in the sale. The passing of someone brings into sharp clarity that our relationships with others is ultimately what is most important.

When my mother passed, I was grateful for the many people who came to the funeral, sent cards, flowers, food and were there for us. My father said that the event had showed him how important it was to make it to birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and funerals himself. He resolved to attend more of these events in the future.

What to do: Have you attended important events from family and friends, or do you find life getting in the way? Make these events a priority in your life.

Life Lesson #3: Learn from Another’s Life

While I never met this man, I was very touched by his memorial and the love that poured out from so many during the event. He was a man who built deep and lasting friendships, who gave much of himself and loved to travel off the beaten path. I am sure he had no regrets and had a very loving tribe around him.

What to do: What do you most admire when you take a moment to appreciate the lives of those you have lost? Take a moment to write down 3 things about each person you’ve lost.

Life Lesson #4: Take Time to Re-assess

Events like this make you stop and reassess your life. Are your priorities in the right place? At the time of our passing no-one is going to care what kind of car we drove, how much money we made, or how many extra hours we put in. What matters is the friendships and family we have, how we chose to help others, and the type of person we were. I certainly stopped to re-asess if my priorities were in line. Thankfully they are close. I still have areas that I struggle with and I find it beneficial to look at how I am spending my time occasionally to be sure it is spent where is most valuable to me.

Ultimately, attending someone’s memorial makes us appreciate life even more. We are all gifted with a finite number hours in this lifetime, and I hope to use mine as wisely as this man did.

What to do: What would you like to be remembered by? Make a list of 5 things you want others to remember when they attend your memorial. Now look at the list you wrote for life lesson #3. Would you like to be remembered for some of those things? If so, add them to your list. Are you living your life in such a way that you will be remembered for the items of your list? If not how can you adjust your priorities and the way you spend your time?

The time is now to start living the life you want to be remembered for.

Try a new healthy habit for 30 days: How to Learn from Other People’s Experiences

Featured photo credit: bsabarnowl via Flickr

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