Yesterday I went to the memorial service for one of the retired partners at our firm. He was a fine lawyer and a really good person, and one of the people who helped the firm to grow and prosper. I had the good fortune to work with him on a number of matters when I was a younger lawyer, and I learned a lot from him.
I think it’s important to attend such services for a lot of reasons: to support the family of the departed, to show them in a tangible way that their loved one had an impact on those around him, and to acknowledge the contribution of that individual. But I also think there is a more personal reason — there are valuable lessons lurking in such services for all of us.
Who doesn’t go to such services and find themselves idly wondering what might be said at their memorial service? If you go to enough memorial services and really listen to the remarks, you quickly come to realize that, while the eulogists will give a nod to the person’s professional success, what truly is remembered with feeling are the individual’s distinct personal touches. It is the help freely provided in the time of need, the relentlessly positive attitude, the charming idiosyncrasies, the opportunities given, the tension-relieving joke at a stressful moment, and countless other little ways in which the person who has gone beyond has left their positive imprint on those who remain, that resonate with the people in attendance and warm their hearts. At memorial services, no one talks about how much money the departed accumulated, or how opulent their house was.
You can learn a lot about living as a better person by going to memorial services.