A couple of weeks ago, I visited a church. My bike rider kept going further down a dusty path with nothing more than white chalk to direct us along. The noise of the poorly fueled motorcycle kept me focused on an important topic: death.
I believed we were lost and surfaced from my trance.
"I think I'm going to that church."
An attempt to have a conversation since there was nothing else for miles around except banana trees and maize fields.
"The one with the large cross at the top."
I entertained my new friend, my inner eyes-rolling.
"Woah, that cross is big, bro,"
I nodded in agreement.
We had become fast friends, him sharing his life in intimate detail in the thirty minutes it took to get there.
The cross grew more prominent as we got closer. What structure lay below it? Could it support all that?
I had arrived at a funeral. Expensive four-wheel-drive cars clogged the large parking lot.
Below the large cross was a grand church. It had just been commissioned, and the funeral was its first service.
1. We carry dead weight
When a person dies, they immediately lose a minimal amount of weight. Scientists have speculated it is your soul departing. What remains is a 'heavy distraction,' the reason you lose focus and never achieve your true potential. The body we leave behind has no prestige. No value except what your soul gives to it. Yet it's the reason you battle with the issues of discovering your value and self-worth.
Dead, your body is treated shamefully in morgues and laid naked before strangers.
For that reason, remember, you are more than your body. Love it or hate it, know it is a functional suit for your soul. Treat it well, and it will make your existence worthwhile. Mistreat it, and your soul will have a hard time on earth.
2. We attract our influence
The funeral was well attended. Most of the people there never met the deceased. But had taken a day to be there. Why?
I have been to funerals with few people and others attended by hundreds or thousands. Why the difference?
I have been to funerals where it was difficult to raise funds and others whose money was significant and exceeded the budget considerably.
What did you achieve in your life? Who did you affect directly or indirectly? Were you a giver, influencing others for a cause greater than yourself?
These questions determine who comes to your funeral and in what numbers. Sometimes, your parents or forbearer could have a good name.
Mostly, a legacy speaks and attracts.
3. We fill funerals with irrelevant human rituals
Funerals are for the living. An opportunity to ritualize our mortality and acknowledge our brief existence. Some people are cremated, some buried within hours, and others remain unburied for years.
Yet during a funeral, the most valuable commodity is memory. We comfort ourselves with personal memory, which the deceased was a part of. We swap memories and update our take on the dead. Mostly avoiding the negative.
We do all this, admitting we leave memories, and even those soon fade. Hence the rituals.
4. A grave is a lonely place
Later, I walked to the gravesite a few kilometers away.
The grave was being dug by drunks from the village. Their conversation went like this.
"They never paid me for digging that grave last week for Mr. X. That family is so stingy," they would then tarnish the unknown family's name as I cringed.
"But here they paid us and have given us drinks and food."
Once done, the grave was left standing alone in the corner, a lonely hole.
The grave is where the least amount of time is spent during a funeral.
5. Your casket will be stepped on by the drunks, misfits, and the unemployed of your village.
No matter how high you ascend. You will be placed in a coffin. Strangers will take your casket from your loved ones and relatives (some who didn't speak to you for ages), then put you in a hole.
Misfits and drunks will make a concrete slab and dump soil on your coffin, stepping on you as they do.
They will think at the back of their minds.
"How soon can I finish this strenuous work and get a drink?"
6. The grave is a lonely place
Finally, flowers were laid by those close to the deceased after prayers. And eventually, everyone left.
This will be the case for everyone. Your body will be left alone, in a lonely corner. Then the memory of you will fade, no matter how impressive you were.
They won't forget your contribution to humanity, the foundations you started, the schools you funded and named. The libraries, and all the monumental giving you, did.
Therefore, invest in people leaving an indelible mark on their lives, moving them forward in your own small or significant way.
Build brilliant companies, follow your dreams unreservedly, write books, leave endowment funds.
Aim to move the human psyche forward.
Because your memory may come back to us when we consider how you affected our lives.