The first time I wrote my own obituary, I was an 18-year-old journalism student completing a class assignment, estimating my death around age 95. (I wrote it again at 21 as part of an application for an editorial post. I got the job.)
I don’t remember everything I included, but authoring a book was in there somewhere.
Consider writing your obituary, or an online bio about your future if that pleases you more. Then consider your greatest legacy may not be the Big Things you do in life, but the way you live it.
In the 1990s, I was a full-time corporate communicator who dabbled in freelance work. Scott George was one of my earliest clients, and although we were in different grades, we’d met years earlier at my small high school. He was the same charismatic, friendly guy I remembered – now a salesman by profession, with an eye for politics. Even as a first-time candidate running against an incumbent, Scott had strong instincts about how he wanted his campaign materials to look and how he wanted his messages to sound. Today we might say he knew his “brand,” but I would call him authentic.
My memories of Scott at a political event not long after his big win feature a guy lit from the inside out, talking about his wife and newborn daughter. Whether he knew people or not, he greeted them with an enthusiastic hug or handshake, eye contact and complete attention. With Scott, everyone was equal. I never saw him look over one person’s shoulder to search for someone more “important” in the room, as some elected officials did and still do.
Scott died a few days later, after a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 27.
I didn’t know him well, but the way I saw him live his life continues to inspire my own. Scott listened, but he acted on instinct; he took risks. He responded to the people around him as unique human beings worthy of his undivided attention.
It’s easy to place a smartphone on a restaurant tabletop like a guest equal to the people in front of us. The grocery line is filled with shoppers alone together, stroking headlines or chatting with friends unseen, and I have my own distractions, whether signaled by a phone or just climbing up into my writerly brain and rummaging through my thoughts like a granny in her attic while life goes on around me.
Connection is our most challenging gift.
More than 70 years ago, a white priest named Trevor Huddleston tipped his hat to a woman in South Africa while her young son watched. His name was Desmond Tutu, and that gesture of respect affected the trajectory of his life.
Our impact as individuals will outlive us. Stories like these remind us there are no ordinary lives – and perhaps, no ordinary moments.