Friday, 4 January 2013

How would you like to be remembered.

In an age where "public service" rewards such as knighthoods are bestowed depending upon the size of your political donation. The cash for gongs winners are sprinkled amongst a few awards for the real stalwarts of unstinting public service. At a time of bland faceless bureaucrats and a world seemingly characterised by warmongering and grasping politicians.

An age where our high streets are full of charity shops inter-spaced with several boarded up empty spaces. All created by businesses that went bust. An age where apprentice learned skills are worth nothing, academic skills fare much the same. Where abject failure is often rewarded by fat cat executive pay. There is nothing better than a fat cat using his extra dosh to buy a gong! I'm not sure that I would want to be awarded a gong that is tainted in this way.

We all know people that have left a positive mark on our lives, albeit they were a stranger, acquaintance,   friend or teacher. People who went the extra mile, who go unrewarded and often go unremembered. I know that we could provide a long list of people who would be much more worthy recipients.

I think we all would like to be acknowledged or remembered in some way. How would I like to be remembered, for me, it would be as someone who is impossible to ignore. Someone who is good at provoking controversy and admiration in unequal measure. But most of all, I would love my epitaph to read "A fun-loving iconoclast whose motto was 'work a little bit and play long and hard."

The time for remembrance, seems to be only at funerals or retirement. Funerals have changed a bit. As a kid, most funerals were sad family events filled with unsmiling people. Many of whom were my more distant relatives and also often complete strangers. Then there was a seed change to funeral services that had a "celebrating of the life" ethos. The hymns were no longer the traditional dirges but often had an element of cheerfulness about them.

Retirement, seems to be an excuse for a few beers with work colleagues before walking away into a different life. Filled with many new challenges as we learn to adapt to the curious change of one day being busy at work, to being busy the next day doing absolutely nothing.

Now, I have been to a couple of off the wall funerals in the last few years. Funerals where the main guest had prior arranged the whole event. A choice of upbeat music being accompanied with a message. Containing a   few last words for family and friends. This sort of funeral only happens when there is some sort of terminal illness that gives some remaining time to dot the "i" and cross the "t" on our lives.

My late cousin Keith, was a fan of Elvis, so his choice of music was a bit predictable. Keith was terminally ill with asbestosis. Keith also chose a very large american style casket for his final trip. However, the casket would not fit through the tiny village church doorway. So we had no choice but to leave him outside. But it was a sunny day and the first of the Swallows had just arrived. It brings a smile to me every time I remember that Keith never arrived for his own funeral service. He also chose to leave a last message, which brought tears, smiles and a fair bit of laughter. I think he very carefully planned it all the way.

Technology is now coming to the aid of everyone. Now you can take advantage of most email systems on the internet. By using services that allow for messages to be delayed and then sent at some arbitrary date (say a birthday) sometime in the future. I did a similar thing with the auto reply function on my old works email address. That automatically used the out of office function for messages that arrived after my last day of toil. A message which pointed out that like "Elvis" I had now left the building.

Quote: "Thank you for your email. I have to let you know that I have been made redundant from my job. I was very happy to be made redundant. Redundancy has helped me to achieve a long held ambition which I had not expected to do before reaching retirement age. Unfortunately, there is no one left behind that I can direct you to. This is because there is no one left to cover the work that I have been doing for the last 25 years. So like the king of rock and roll - Mick and Elvis have both left the building. Regards. Mick"

The out of office message was still doing the job for almost a year after I had left. I did a similar sort of message with my voice mail. That did not remain around for long as the direct dial number was reallocated soon afterwards.


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