The Empty Funeral

Measuring a Life Well Lived

Adaptation and change are at the heart of biological evolution. And similarly they are at the heart of individual growth and progress.

I don’t believe that any of us is truly happy without a challenge of some sort in our lives. And not just the challenge but the personal evolution that ensues.

Many years ago I received an invitation to sing at a funeral for someone I had never met. But interestingly, it wasn’t because they were expecting a large group there, but because they were afraid it would be poorly attended. They had very few friends or family members to be involved in the services, and a singer would not just add needed music to the event, it would also add another attendee.

I arrived at the funeral home and walked into a chapel that could easily hold 300 people. But the only people in attendance were the man’s wife, his teen-age daughter, their ecclesiastical leader and one other person who had been asked to play music.

As the short service progressed, the eulogy was delivered by his daughter. I learned quickly that this man had been unemployed for years and had spent the majority of his time sitting on a couch in their apartment watching TV. The theme of her talk was centered around how much her father loved the Denver Broncos. Visiting with her and her mother after the funeral it was obvious that there was really little else to say about him.

Of course I didn’t know anything other than what I saw and heard at the funeral, it was both a sad and troubling experience. Here was a man who died in his 30s, almost no one came to pay respects at his funeral, and as near as I could tell, his biggest accomplishment was being a fan of the Denver Broncos.

The experience of that funeral hasn’t left me. From my perspective this appeared to be a wasted life; I believe that most people would see it that way too.

But why did it seem that way to me? Maybe he felt personally fulfilled in the life he led. Maybe he felt happiness in some way. I really don't know.

I believe it seemed pathetic because from an outsider's perspective it seemed like a life of stagnation. A life without accomplishment and without evolution. As humans we want to see growth, we want to see personal development. We are hard wired to cheer for an underdog who works to overcome the odds and rise to the top. But this person seemed to have a life without progress or effort, and as a result, a life that seemed to have little purpose. And it was sadly punctuated by the fact that almost no one came to say goodbye.

Whether it's right or wrong, when we see a person who hasn't grown or evolved, we tend to see their life as somewhat wasted.

I have attended many funerals over the years and am fascinated by the legacies that are pronounced in talks by friends and family members. Each time I can’t help but wonder what will be said about me when that day comes. What legacy will I leave friends and family? How many people will attend my funeral?

Our Audiomover business plays a small role in this process. We literally preserve history. We provide tools for those legacies to exist permanently. Take a few moments today and gather your audio and video tapes, consider their value to you and the people you leave behind, and then box them up and send them our way.