The Measure of a Life

This past week I attended the funeral of my sweet brother-in-law. Such events call to mind not only the life of the person involved, but other persons we have known that have died especially those related to or connected to the most recently deceased.

Being a witness to a person’s life can teach you a lot especially where you are aware of the choices they made–the road taken and the roads not taken. As you think about what you admired, and respected or didn’t about the person, on how they expressed their own uniqueness, their talents, or not, and how they handled their challenges, it is a real life example you might want to follow or to avoid.

In any event, the death of another can trigger you to evaluate how you are living yourself. If death were to come soon, are you pleased with how you have lived? Would you have done anything differently? Did you accomplish what you wanted in the time you have had so far? What are you taking with you in terms of knowledge, experience, personal growth and soul development, in terms of the lives you have touched? Did your life make a difference to anyone or anything in the world? What is the legacy you leave behind?

I know of, listened to and have read many near death testimonies. Several experiencers who went through the Life-Review were not asked what they accomplished in worldly terms, but

  1. What did you learn?
  2. How did you express love?

Many years ago I had a lucid dream in which I was in the ‘beyond’ with my guides and spiritual group (those team mates that stay behind while one goes in (incarnates). In this dream I was jumping up and down shouting “we did it, we did it. I had a wonderful life!” The part of me that was aware that I was sleeping was aghast. “What do you mean I had a wonderful life?” As I was going through a divorce at the time, life was not definitely not fun and had not been for a very, long time. Then the dream continued, “and I’ve learned so much!” And indeed, I had to agree that I had learned a great deal as a result of my many, painful experiences–pain usually experienced because I was naive, suffering from low self-esteem, or just plain stupid. Unfortunately, it seemed that all too often I had to learn the hard way. But I did learn something even though I had to repeat some lessons multiple times.

I have often said that it was important to live without regret, to make choices you could live with so you could sleep at night. For myself, I have had to do a lot of work years after upsetting events because either I didn’t know how or neglected to deal effectively in the moment. Hence, the importance to “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him;.” (Bible: Matthew 5:25)

Regrets are both what we did and what we didn’t do, what we said or didn’t say. For example, when my grandmother told me she was dying, I poo-pooed her concern rather let her talk about her fears of facing the end of her life. I regret that. I didn’t spend nearly enough time with people that mattered to me, but rather wasted my time on less important matters. I spent time building my own career or pursuing romance instead of paying more attention to raising my own son and giving him more opportunities. I didn’t streamline my life to be able to handle both my responsibilities and important relationships. I missed out on a lot of rich experiences. All too often I shied away from activities or arenas that would have stretched me beyond my comfort zone. I have been haunted by a few, poorly chosen words. No doubt you have your own list as do, I am sure, the very people you admire and respect.

It is difficult to evaluate the life of another. We see only from our own perspective, our other experiences, our relationship to the person and interaction with them. We may never see how they are with others. Those bosses or employees that cause us grief may be devoted partners and loving parents. They may be loyal friends and good neighbors.

For example, to my sister and I, my mother was a hard taskmaster who through a few careless remarks cut us to the core. To the neighborhood children, however, she was the sweet, old lady that showed real interest in them and fed them milk and cookies. To my son, she was his best friend. To my father, she was the beautiful woman he married.

On the other hand, we may never know how we affect others for good or ill. I have had people angry at me without any idea why. I have also had people tell me how much I meant to them, and how I helped them. Again, I had no idea that what I had taken for granted, some small, forgotten act or few words had made such positive impact upon someone else.

So what is the measure of a life, my life, your life?

For my brother-in-law, it seemed to be about expressing love – love to God, love to his wife and children, love and caring to others in general. That is a legacy worth copying.

Please add your comments.

Copyright by Roxanne Louise. However, this article may be shared in other free online sources only if this copyright notice and link to and  are included with the content.

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