By Jamie Schafer – White Hall, MD

I’ve been dealing with a lot of taxing issues recently. Life is different for everyone, but there are a few things everyone deals with at one time or another.

Death is one of them, and it’s really been the fire to fuel this post. I had the pleasure of burying two wonderful men in one week this month. I say I had “the pleasure” because while the viewings and funerals are not a super-fantastic experience, I am honored to have known them and been a part of their lives for however long.

jamie cousin
Jamie and her cousins coming together after the viewing.

At one of the viewings, I took a walk around the funeral parlor and came across a quiet room —with only a handful of people — and noticed just how empty it felt. My family was down the hall, spilling out of the crammed two rooms provided for us and I realized something: I want to live a life worthy of having people come to see me when I’m dead.

For me, this means being kind to others, living a life that is gentle and supportive, loving others and always being there for people. A genuine life. Not one where I spend my time trying to be the center of attention, getting recognition, being the best, having the most things, etc. It was an eye opener. I related it to the tortoise and the hare; slow and steady wins the race.

I lived my life for many years, early on, trying to be the “it girl,” the one with the most friends, the best things and I was always busy. It was filled with drama and it was lacking something – I couldn’t keep up; it was unsatisfying. When you die, superficial friends and material things are not going to fill a room for your viewing.

prayer cards
The prayer cards from each of the viewings Jamie attended.

My cousin’s eulogy to honor her grandfather really hit home for me. It ended with: “And I promise you that this big, crazy, one-of-a-kind family that you made, with your choice so long ago, will keep on this path that you set us on – this path of doing the hard work, of giving our whole hearts, of putting family always first – until we all are together again.”

I focused on the word choice. Everything in life is a choice. We wake-up and make choices throughout the day to let things bother us or to be happy. Our choices in life affect others, especially our family. Live a life that makes your descendants proud to have come from you, one that leaves a positive note on those whose paths you cross.

Working hard each day to do the best you can is imperative, but know your job is not defining of you. I, for one, was so focused on my career and making enough money and work, work, work that I thought happiness would follow. WRONG. So wrong. These recent deaths really made me realize I need to be happy first and foremost. I, personally, cannot find happiness by living up to the status quo in the professional world. You have to find what matters to you and makes you happy and focus on that.

fitzgerlandWe spend so much time trying to cross things off our list in life: graduate high school, graduate college, find a mate, get married, land the dream job; one thing after another. When in reality, tomorrow is imaginary. It doesn’t exist. The only thing guaranteed is right now, this moment. That’s it. We can imagine that tomorrow we will do x-y-z, but tomorrow is not something we can count on. Make the most of right now, that’s all we are guaranteed.

Spend time with those in your life who mean something to you. Pick up the phone, send a text, write an email or a letter,  drop by to say hello. We’ve all got a lot of things going on and we’re all busy, but those little moments will be so much more meaningful when the person is no longer around. Do it because one day, you’ll wish you did.

Reevaluate your priorities Reflect on what is important to you. Then go and do just that.