To Become Ageless, you need to write your obituary—An obituary is someone else writing the aspects of your life that people recognize, mentioning your important accomplishments. In this assignment, it’s your life from a different point of view. The point of view of what you want people to know and remember. You as CEO or PTA president–the big things, are what most people will remember. But it is the day you took your daughter, at five, to see the ice skating at Rockefeller Center that’s important to you, just being a mom, encouraging her dream to become a competitive skater. This is also where you can list the parts of your life you want the world to know about: your passions–rare book collecting, organizing beach cleanups, saving the elephants, etc. Or it’s a place to see what little you have done and that you have stopped becoming involved, stopped listening to the needs of others or just stopped listening to your family and friends. Maybe you have tuned out the world.
The obituary should be written as if you were going to submit it to the New York Times to be published under their death notices. So think about it seriously. Include quirks, hobbies, passions and secrets, even quotes. Everyone has a story to tell. Look outside the box to find personality traits and personal characteristics: zest for life to cranky disposition, Las Vegas poker player, tango dancer or whatever fits.
Is it’s true, when you come close to death, is when you start living?
One warm spring Friday night I was at the movies with a date. The theater was in a mall and realizing we would be out at nine, we parked under the lights of the supermarket on the first level. After the show, as we were approaching the car, out of the shadows appeared two men. Before we had a clue as to what was happening, we were held-up by two African American young males, dressed in the softest leather jackets, upscale sunglasses and gold accessories. Standing beside the car, with a gun in “my” stomach, one of the men asked my boy friend to give them his Rolex, which my date did immediately. Then he asked my friend for his wallet. My date responded that he doesn’t carry a wallet. The next moment the gun is jabbed into my gut.
“Tell him to give us his wallet!” the gunman strongly repeats to me.
I looked directly into this man’s eyes, quietly, softly and coolly, “Jim does not carry a wallet.” Within seconds they took off and disappeared into the shadows from where they appeared. Amazingly, the cars on either side of us had shoppers from the market filling their trunks with groceries and no one even saw these two well dressed, good looking black men come or go.
But his face was burned into my memory.
The next day, I spent all Saturday looking at police photos and giving a detailed report, but I could not identify either man from over 1000 photos, yet I knew I could if I saw him. Sunday morning in my bunny slippers I went to the front steps and retrieved the Sunday Los Angeles Times, as I always read the paper in bed on Sundays, it’s my ritual. But as the paper unfolded I began to shake, I could hardly breath. The complete front page was a composite sketch of a young African American man. The headline read: Murder in Beverly Hills. The front-page story told of two young, well-dressed African American men coming into the famous Michele-Richard restaurant at eleven Saturday night and asked the dozen patrons for their watches. Then when they asked for their wallets, the manager stood up. “Take the money from the cash register and please leave the customers alone.”
The gunman, the same one who had his gun in my belly, shot and killed the manager. I was shaking as I called the detective on our case. When I realized I, too, could have been killed, I broken down in tears. It’s sad to think that it has to take a life threatening experience to become mindful of your presence. Sometime it’s the death of a family member or the death of a young friend. No matter, don’t wait.
Realizing your death is a wake-up call.
Joan Rivers, iconic, unbelievably energetic, smart, a wonderful mother, grandmother was so passionate about her work and forever reinventing herself, she is the ageless queen. She never let life’s traumas keep her down and lived her life to the fullest. She planned every detailed step of her elaborate New York funeral. She wanted it to be a big showbiz affair, with lights, cameras, craft services and paparazzi.
Yep! The next part of this Trigger is to plan your funeral. List the most important things: location, music, dress, flowers, foods, speakers and don’t forget the limos and paparazzi. Be specific where you can. The Beatles or Adel? The guest list? Private or a big party? Flowers? (I don’t want carnations or chrysanthemums at my funeral. I can’t stand the smell. And I want to be buried over looking the sea, somewhere. I like the idea of my family and friends and even people who I don’t know coming to visit me and chatting, I think it’s good for them to have a place to go to reminisce and reflect.)
You can think about this one and start your list; it’s O.K. to leave blank spaces. This is a good time to say what you want. Do the best you can. If you don’t write it down, who will know your wishes? It makes it so much easier. My girlfriend’s husband passed away suddenly, they were happy to find a document file on his computer: The Exit.
They say when you do write your obituary and your Exit file, a weight has lifted from your shoulders. Facing death head on and feeling like you have some control over some aspect of it, helps you want to live.
Don’t wait for a life threatening experience when you can live life to the fullest, now. And to live life to the fullest, you need to make changes and make choices.