A few weeks ago I was caught off guard with a moment (or days?) of honest-to-God existential turmoil when I heard of the passing of a beloved local mom who endured a hard-fought battle with cancer.
After my initial reaction of sadness about this person’s death and empathy toward her loved ones — especially her young child — my thoughts somehow turned to myself. Our community was reeling because this was someone who truly exemplified what it means to be a good neighbor. I did not know her well, but I had met her and knew many people who considered her a friend. So after listening to what others had to say in group chats and on social media about this person’s open heart and bright smile, I started to feel pangs of anxiety about my own death.
I am a good person, this I know. I strive to be there for others in a genuine way. But what hit me out of nowhere was a deep worry about how I would be remembered if I were to encounter an untimely death. And the truth is, I don’t think I’m alone in this. So I decided to dive a little deeper so others may also find a way to ease up on the morbid worries.
What did I first think when I went into crisis mode?
I don’t have a smile that brightens up any room I enter. As a member of the RBF club I use my smile only when it is warranted and definitely not when someone tells me to smile.
I am not always cheerful or friendly. I feel my feelings and care deeply about things so I cannot always display an open heart, even if I have one. I have no poker face.
I complain about things I don’t find fair, just, authentic, funny, or responsible. I am not always complaining, but I also don’t pretend to be OK with something that isn’t OK in my mind.
I am shy, and this can come off as standoffish. When I’m comfortable, I present as very outgoing; but when I’m not, I retreat and my energy gets depleted. This shyness prevents me from having an easy time joining group conversations or even comfortably pulling up a beach chair where a few well-known acquaintances or even friends have already set up.
And that’s just to name a few. Thinking about all this had me heading downhill quickly — if I died, people would not have much to say, except maybe something like, “What you saw was what you got,” or, “She could talk!” But after feeling bad about myself for a little while, I started to see the light. And it’s not all that bad, actually.
So I came up with some things I like about myself — plus a bit of a resolution going forward.
I am kind and compassionate first. I might not always be “nice” or “sweet,” but I come from a place of kindness.
I am highly empathetic and able to give people the benefit of the doubt (with extremely few exceptions).
I am forgiving.
I am a good, loving mother. I do my best to raise my children to be kind, generous, compassionate individuals. When I make mistakes I work hard to repair and make amends.
I am a good wife, daughter, and sister.
I am a loyal friend. You can count on me.
I am a reliable colleague and team player at work.
I work hard to continue to grow as a person and professional. I know that there’s plenty I don’t know.
I am an advocate.
I can be funny and do have a sense of humor. I don’t like hurtful teasing disguised as humor.
I am authentic — what you see is what you get.
Of course, it’s possible I’ll have pity party days when I don’t believe the list above is true or that people would remember me that way. Therefore, I need to work on embodying those attributes more often. I believe the characteristics I listed to be true, but I might not always show up with them in mind, especially during stressful times.
My resolution, then? Live my life the way I would like to be remembered. Work on being that person more often. And practice gratitude. At the end of the day, I’m still here, and that’s more than reason enough to give thanks and stay true to myself.