My Imaginary Funeral Blues (With Profuse Apologies to W.H. Auden)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

“Funeral Blues” – W.H Auden


Once, I heard someone say that if you want to get a firm handle on your true values, imagine yourself at your own funeral, looking back on life. If it helps, you might think of airy organ music, alarmingly large flower arrangements, and people in dark, uncomfortable clothing. As part of this end-of-life exercise, you should also consider the things you’d most regret not having done. Those, then, are your most important things, the ones you should be doing now.

A few of my most important things, in no particular order, are taking long drives with my wife, watching movies, reading, playing music, writing, and hanging out with my dog. As you might imagine, these are the things I spend far fewer minutes, hours and days doing than I’d like. Here’s why: I’ve been in a rush my entire life, or at least for the past twenty years. Grumbling at traffic lights, snapping at innocent bystanders for no reason, finding any way to avoid standing in a long line—that’s me.

Why am I in a rush? I’m not sure, but I have a suspicion.

When I was younger, I was never on time for anything: school, work, church, bed, you name it. In that area of my life, I should point out, I did not take after my father, a man who is consistently on time. In fact, in the time I’ve known him, he’s never been late for anything. On the other hand, if I was ever on time, it was probably an accident.

As a result of my early history, and stemming from a desire to compensate for my youthful lack of punctuality, I seem to have developed a later-in-life obsession with being on time. As you might imagine, it’s this desire to be punctual that inspires all the rushing.

I’m trying to do better, though. Ideally, I’d like to reside somewhere in the middle ground between a perpetual mad dash to reach my next destination and stopping on occasion to enjoy the things I love. This brings me back to the funeral. “We never knew where he was headed,” my hypothetical eulogizer might say. “But there was no doubt he was going to get there on time.”

No, I don’t want to look back on my life at my own funeral—real or otherwise—and regret being in a constant rush. I don’t want to hurry to reach the end of my days any sooner or later than I would have otherwise, had I not rushed. That would really bother me, even more, I think, than the part about being dead.

I’ll never receive an Auden-worthy eulogy, but while I’m considering my imaginary funeral, I might as well include a few other things I’d rather not be spoken from the podium:

  • He Was the Guy Who Never Laughed at Himself
  • He Was the Guy with Toilet Paper Stuck to His Shoe
  • He Was the Guy Who Could Best Be Discredited by Being Quoted Verbatim and in Context.
  • He Was the Guy Who Typed in All Caps
  • He Was the Guy Who Just Stopped Trying
  • He Was the Guy About Whom Others Said, “At least I’m not him.”
  • He Was the Guy in the Workout Video the Instructor Pointed at and Said, “If you’re new, just do what he does.”
  • He Was the #Guy Who #Bought #Hashtags on Sale #and #Had to #Use Them All on #Twitter #Before They #Went Bad
  • He Was the Guy Who Couldn’t Let Go
  • He Was the Guy About Whom Others Said, “Oh, that’s just the way he is. Don’t take it personally”
  • He Was the Guy Who Couldn’t See Beyond His Own Front Door
  • He Was the Guy Who Couldn’t Let Someone Else Have the Last Word
  • He Was the Guy the Dog Didn’t Like
  • He Was the Crazy Guy with All the Bumper Stickers
  • He Was the Drama King Who Never Understood That the World Didn’t Revolve Around Him

These are a lot of things to keep track of, of course, but I think I can handle it by trying to avoid being a jerk. I’m going to enjoy my life, and I hope the people in my life, especially the ones who have chosen to be there, will enjoy it along with me. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll like it all the more for my being there.

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