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Life Lessons From a Funeral Home

From time to time I’m going to share articles that resonated with me. The first is from my usual source of financial management treasure trove, or one of them, The Simple Dollar. This article, Life Lessons From a Funeral Home by Holly Johnson, was published a short while back, but its message still resonates. It reads, in part:

As a child, it was hard for me to envision what my future would look like. I’m sure I considered being a teacher once, and pondered possibilities of a future as a dancer, veterinarian, chef, and astronaut through the years. So I’m sure you can imagine how surprised I was to find myself working in a funeral home as a young adult. It wasn’t exactly the dream job I had envisioned, but since my husband was a mortician, it made sense at the time. He, along with several other directors, prepared bodies for burial and planned services of every type and size you can imagine. Meanwhile, I worked in the office designing memorial folders, performing administrative tasks, and being the main customer service contact for anyone who walked through the door. My husband and I practically grew up there. While most of our friends enjoyed jobs that were far less serious, we spent the last half of our 20s and our early 30s working with the families of the deceased and helping them pick up the pieces. I left the industry to start my own business after seven years, but now that I look back, I can truly say that job was the inspiration for some of life’s greatest lessons. Not only did I learn to care for people who were often experiencing the worst day of their lives, but I also gained a unique perspective on what it really means to die – and not just for the deceased, but for those who remain. Read more.

Please do read the article in its entirety.

The story that meant the most to me was of the couple who had spent years planning for everything they would do when they retired. Then, just a few short months before the husband was to leave his job, the wife died of an aneurysm. There would be no Alaska cruise, no cross-country road trip, nothing the couple had envisioned for their golden years.

Financial planning is a delicate balancing act. On the one hand I am afraid of my life mirroring this couple’s story. I do not want to become too old to enjoy the wonders of travel. I do not want to wait until I retire before publishing that elusive book. I do not want to be one more grunt that stays at a job for twenty years for the sake of a pension that may not pay out.

On the other hand, I am afraid of moving to the other extreme and living my life as though today could be my last day. You Only Live Once (YOLO) makes for a catchy hashtag, but the fact more than 70% of the country lives paycheck to paycheck is probably indicative of a country that could use a little less spontaneity and a little more forethought, so where’s the balancing point?

The answer is truly a disappointing one: I don’t know.

So, I will make the best of it. I will work hard at maintaining an emergency fund to help meet the inevitable bump in the road. I will dutifully sock money away for a time when I am too old and grumpy to put up with coworkers in a traditional work setting. I will not be so quick to dismiss what could be considered crazy travel destinations, because, well, I could die before ever getting to visit them, and if taking such trips occasionally requires me to fall a half step behind in my savings goals, that’s okay because up to a point you have to be confident you are an investment worth betting on. Devoting more time to loved ones? Easy to say it goes without say, right? But it’s a notion actually worth fulfilling. And, equally important, I will live my own dream.

I wish I had something more inspiring to accompany Holly’s excellent writing. I suppose I could struggle along, mash together some lame attempts at inspiration of my own, but for a piece like this perhaps we each have to figure out what is most important in our lives and prioritize them accordingly.

Care to share some of yours? Like, where have you always wanted to visit? What’s the craziest thing you’ve always been tempted to try? Or, if you want to hit a little closer to the bone, what fears did the article most inspire in you?

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My blog is a collection of advice I wish someone had shared with me when I was young and targets subjects like personal finance, careers, and relationships. It publishes Mondays with the occasional bonus article. Sign up to have fresh content delivered straight to your inbox, no SPAM!


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