HomeStandard StyleEver thought about your eulogy?

Ever thought about your eulogy?

Inspiration with Cynthia Chirinda

A week before Carol Karanja boarded the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed last week on Sunday on its way to Kenya, she sent a message to her sister saying she had an uneasy feeling. “My heart isn’t really excited. I feel like there’s something bad ahead, but I don’t know what,” the WhatsApp message read.

Karanja was travelling from Canada to Kenya with her three children and her mother. She was so worried about the trip, she sent a similar message expressing her fear of the impending journey to her father before she boarded the flight. Thousands of miles away in Kenya, worried about her older sister’s premonition, Kelly Karanja asked her the exact day she’d arrive and told her to pray about it.

“Tenth. Will let you know the time,” Carol Karanja messaged.

Carol never made it to their Kenyan homeland. She was among the 157 people killed when the plane crashed just minutes after take-off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. Also killed was her mother, Ann Wangui Karanja, and her three children — Ryan Njoroge (7), Kellie Pauls (4) and nine-month-old daughter Rubi Pauls.

Rubi was born in Ontario, where the family lived. She was going home for the first time to meet her Kenyan family.

Kelly said her sister was deeply spiritual and always knew how to read things.

“She was always the telepathic one,” Kelly said. “She was also jovial, funny, selfless, the one who brought the family together. We are not able to put into words the kind of woman she was. She was just awesome.”

Before her flight, Carol texted her father, John Quindos Karanja, and expressed her fear for the impending journey.

“The day before the flight my daughter sent me a message — and she told me ‘I’m not excited. ‘I don’t know what is happening dad. I am fearing and I don’t know what it is in me,’ She had fears,” her father said. “So, I thought that was normal. We never interacted again.”

Death is a reality

Humans spend a lot of their waking hours avoiding thoughts of our inevitable end. That’s probably for the best, since dwelling on your death is a morbid exercise. But, it turns out, it’s also a very useful thing to think about when trying to figure out your life.

Most people act like they’ll never die. We give very little thought to the subject, and what will happen to our loved ones if we were to die in an accident or a sudden heart attack. We prefer to think about more pleasant subjects than the possibility of our demise. Unfortunately, death will take us all. And when at last it catches up with you, the question you have to ask yourself is: Have you settled your spiritual affairs and lived a life of significance based on your life assignment?

In my coaching interventions, I have deliberately incorporated a specific thought experiment to help my clients to decide what they’re doing next and why by getting them to write their own eulogy. For those unfamiliar, a eulogy is a piece of writing which praises someone, typically someone who has just passed away.
Generally, a eulogy reflects back on the person’s life and what they accomplished. The kind of person they were, what they did for others, and the lessons that specific person reading it learned from the deceased.

I believe that when we take the time to write our eulogies, it creates this magnetic pull power that draws us forward. Our priorities and our vision for where we want to be and how we’ll get there come into sharp focus. This clarity enables us to make the best decisions, get up out of our comfortable patterns, create new habits, and starts moving us toward a better future.

Make time for it

Your eulogy isn’t your grocery list. If you are going to take your own eulogy seriously, give it as much time as you would for writing the eulogy of a dear friend. Go some place quiet, somewhere you can get away from your daily life a little bit and focus on the task at hand: your death.

While you shouldn’t be unkind to yourself, you should be realistic about what kinds of accomplishments would be noted. Picture your funeral service as if it were being held right now. Your casket is sitting centre stage, and as you look down the centre aisle, you see the first three rows, usually reserved for those with whom we were closest. Who’s sitting there for you? Most likely your family and dearest friends. Now keep looking down the aisle, and now you’re looking at rows 10 through 20. Who’s sitting there? What did you give to the people in these rows?

Consider your “legacy statement”

The nice thing about the first eulogy is that when it’s over, you are most likely still alive! That means you can turn things around. Consider your “legacy statement,” or how you would like to be remembered one day. By writing both the eulogy and the legacy statements, you may begin to see a gap between where you are and how you want to be remembered in the future. This gap then creates a felt need that should propel you toward putting a plan together to close those gaps in your life.

You can even look at them side by side afterwards and see what it is that’s missing in between. What have you been ignoring or putting off? Who have you not connected with? Where haven’t you gone? What do you spend time on now that won’t matter at the end? Now you know. And you can still do something about it.

Work backward (set goals, make plans)

The unfortunate part of all this is you have no idea when you’re going to die, but the likelihood is after doing this exercise you also now realise the value of every minute you have alive and how you should make the most of it no matter what, so start by working backward and figuring out when would be a reasonably believable time frame for accomplishing each of your new major goals.

Take action

You’ve taken the time to reflect on your life, contemplating who you want to be and what you want to accomplish, written your eulogy, created a plan to match, and have broken down your goals into bite-sized chunks you can take action on. Now that your plan is in place, all that’s left to do is take action. Never forget what it felt like to contemplate on your own life and what each minute of life really means to you. And use this as fuel for following your heart and living your best life. A life of no regrets.

Cynthia Chirinda is an organisational and personal development consultant, life coach, author and strategist. Her two new additions to the Connection Factor Collection — The Connection Factor for Leaders and The Connection Factor for Women — speak to matters that position organisational leaders and women respectively, to achieve greater levels of success through their strategic connections. Looking at improving your career, personal effectiveness, communication skills, relationships, focus, faith and happiness? Wholeness Incorporated Coaching offers you strategies you can implement today to review your progress and achieve your goals. E-mail: LinkedIn: Cynthia Chirinda Hakutangwi. Mobile: +263 717 013 206. Website:

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