Write Your Own Eulogy: Or Why Faking Your Own Funeral is a Good Idea
In 2012, a South Korean company started offering a new type of service. But unlike the typical startup, instead of creating another app for managing files on your computer, this eastern organization wanted to improve people’s lives by simulating their deaths. Yes, you read that right. These guys let you fake your own funeral and since launching, more than 25,000 people have participated in these mass “living funerals.”
We, westers, don’t talk about death. We think we have forever. And while it’s absolutely OK to enjoy your every second of existence on the planet and disregard the fact that we’re someday going to perish, we don’t actually appreciate our time here. We waste most of our lives discussing others, playing video games, and sharing meaningless memes online. I mean, come on, there’s surely something better you can do than giggling at low-quality pictures with funny texts.
That’s one of the reasons Koreans started this “Happy Dying” initiative. “Once you become conscious of death, and experience it, you undertake a new approach to life,” said a participant in the fake dying program.1
The other reason is the rising rate of suicides in Korean. With this uncommon practice, they want to help people to re-evaluate their existence, find purpose, and prevent them from taking their lives prematurely. And part of the program involves writing your own enology.
What’s a Eulogy?
Usually, you’ll need to write a eulogy to praise a relative or a person close to you who’s no longer around – mention their most recognized deeds and what they were like to honor them. It’s either in the form of a speech or in the form of writing.
But in our case, we’re going to pretend for a moment that we’re no longer here. And I don’t want to make you do it because I experience sadistic joy from toying with your fragile psyche, I don’t. Quite the contrary.
By confronting your mortality, I want to help you appreciate what you already have and encourage you to take action towards the things you always dreamed about.
A eulogy, in this case, can both comfort you and inspire you.
By thinking about your end, you’ll stop for a moment, take a break from the busyness of modern life, and think about how you’d like to be remembered.
How Writing Your Own Eulogy Can Help?
A famous quote from an England-based graffiti artist, called Banksy, states: “I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”
We can visualize the above like this:
Die 1: When you hit the sack – in a really bad way.
Die 2: When people mention your name for the last time.
X: The time between 1 and 2.
Naturally, if you did something worthwhile, the number of years between 1 and 2 (X) will be greater. People will remember you and mention you at parties, in speeches, praise you in books all around the world. The X index can also be infinity which will mean that you did something legendary. Or, something extremely diabolic.
For example, Aristotle died more than 2000 years ago but that doesn’t stop people from constantly using his name here and there. We keep praising him for his thoughts, inventions, strategies, work on psychology, poetics, ethics, and more – as I did in my latest article: Ethos, Pathos, Logos. On the other hand, we have Hitler. He’s also an important historical figure commonly mentioned in textbooks but usually not for fun things. His name became a noun synonymous with brutal.
“But how writing what I presumably did in my life from a dead man’s perspective will help people remember my name after I’m long gone?” you might ask.
When you imagine your own funeral, you’ll undoubtfully think about what happened in the previous years – what you did and what you left behind for your heirs.
This exercise will create a sense of urgency within you. A driving force to do something that can outlive you. Or in other words, writing your own eulogy will help you in the following directions: 1) give you direction in life, 2) inspire you to do good deeds, and 3) increase the X number.
How To Actually Write Your Own Eulogy
Usually, the less you know about writing a eulogy, the better. But in our case, we’ll need to understand the basics so we can use this practice to stimulate action.
You can start by thinking (and writing) about the following:
Where you lived: Where did you live? Did you move around a lot or live in one place during your growing up years?
What you studied: Did you study at school or university? Can you describe what you studied and how this helped you in your life?
Family and friends: What was your relationship with your parents like when you were young? Did you ever get married? Did you have kids? Were you a people person or you preferred to stay at home alone?
The work you did: What type of work did you enjoy most? What type of work you did for a living?
You as a person: Were you a nice person to talk to? Were you active, outgoing, determined to achieve your goals kind of guy/girl? Who will cry when you die? What’s the most admirable thing you did?
And while the above are OK to consider, they are not enough to help you get off your ass and start working on world-saving deeds that can rid the planet of hunger, poverty, and even stupidity.
To get the most the eulogy-writing exercise, you need to actually follow these steps:
Your first eulogy: “What will people say about you if you died today?” That’s surely a thought not a lot of us want to hold for long but it can give us valuable insight about our current state of being. So, take a moment and think about what you’ll leave behind if you evaporate at this very moment. If most of your efforts fall under the category “nothing really worth mentioning” this exercise can serve as a wake-up call. The best part about writing your first eulogy is that it can help you spot things you didn’t do but always wanted to. For example, starting that business, talking to that girl, learning how to code, learning a new language, visiting Bali, etc. Whatever it is, it’s something you now know you should do.
Write your future eulogy: Still alive after the above exercise? Good. Now, after surviving a mini heart attack and instilling weary feelings about the things you haven’t done yet, you have the opportunity to correct your mistakes and make your dreams come true. It’s going to take time yes, probably all the time you have left, but at least you won’t have any regrets when you’re actually facing your end. Write your second eulogy as if 30 years had passed. Say you’re 70 years old, how you would like to be remembered? What have you done? How many lives have you influenced?
Take some time to think about the second eulogy. You don’t have to do it now. You don’t even have to follow anything of the things I mentioned. Simply take some time to consider how you’d like your life to unfold. It’s something worth thinking about for a couple of days, even weeks. Once you’re ready, continue with the following:
Create an action plan: Once you know how you want to be remembered, you need to ensure that what you wrote is not just a bunch of words on paper. You need an action plan. So, break down your life-long goal into smaller, more achievable targets. Something like this: 5-year goal; 1-year goal, monthly goal, a weekly goal, what should I do today?
Deviation: No matter how noble and ambitious your legacy statement is, things change. If you wrote your life plan when you were 20-years-old, don’t be afraid to make some corrections when you’re 30 or 40. Probably you no longer want to be an astronaut and visit Mars, and that’s OK. Simply take some time to re-think your future strategy and set new daily tasks.
Some Closing Thoughts
We rarely take time to consider what we should do with our lives.
Society and our parents usually set the following path for us: Go to school > Graduate > Find a job > Start a family. In that specific order. And for lack of something different, we just follow through.
But these are just the basics. There’s so much more we can do. There’s so much more we should do.
If you haven’t yet, sit down, alone, and consider how you’d like your name to be remembered long after your gone. And while setting a big ludicrous goal is a good thing, it’s not mandatory to feel like you had a worthy life. Starting a family and raising your children to become capable, ambitious, and hard-working citizens of the world is also a noble thing to do.
Whatever you’d write, make sure it’s the life you want to live, not the life that someone else tells you to live.
Continually remind yourself that you are a mortal being, and someday will die. This will inspire you not to waste precious time in fruitless activities, like stewing over grievances and striving after possessions.” Epictetus