Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Last Word

Before humor columnist Art Buchwald passed away this week, he did something that was, well, pretty much in character for him. He recorded a video obituary for the New York Times, which starts off with a cheerful, “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald, and I just died.” (Click here to watch it.)

It turns out that this is actually part of a new trend at the Times, and in a CNN interview, the reporter who spoke with Buchwald also claims to have several other Last Word interviews “in the can”, with subjects ranging from a former President of the United States to a noted scientist.

It was fascinating to watch Buchwald’s video obituary, which in sum total was a touching retrospective of a life well lived – particularly for a man who overcame a tough childhood, a struggling early career and frequent bouts of depression to brighten our lives with his books and columns. But what stuck with me the most was his simple answer to the question, “How would you like to be remembered?” Without hesitation, he replied, “As someone who made people laugh.”

So how would I like to be remembered? If I were about to be run over by a beer truck tomorrow, I’d have to say as a loving husband, a good friend, and hopefully as someone who, in a small way, helped people communicate better in the workplace. But it struck me that I’d like to be able to say much more than that.

I’ve never particularly cared for fame, riches, or personal aggrandizement – none of which you can take with you anyway. It doesn’t really matter to me whether anyone remembers me by name (except my wife and family, of course!). But there is so much more to learn about how we communicate, and still so much pain in many of our daily working and living relationships, that I’d like to leave this all-too-short life leaving behind a bigger contribution than I have. So – thanks to you, Art – I realize that I have a lot more work to do, God willing.

So, what would your video obituary say? And how would you like to be remembered?

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