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What Will Matter? (by Michael Josephson)

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten
will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations
and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from
or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought
but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success
but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned
but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity,
compassion, courage, or sacrifice
that enriched, empowered or encouraged others
to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence
but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories
but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.


Last night I facilitated my first “Death Cafe” in the community.  Two brave souls attended.  And how rich was our conversation.  We talked about death, what it means and our fear about it.  And this poem summarizes well some of the themes we talked about – about how an awareness of death can help us to truly live.

I read an article recently that talked about those in Bhutan who try to make it a habit to think about death 5 times a day for 5 minutes.  And it’s a place with some of the happiest people in the world.  Perhaps there is something to the truth echoed in Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom,.”  That truth was echoed last night in our group as it echoes with wisdom through the centuries for all who are willing to hear and to listen.  So, perhaps at least one time today I’ll try to pause for 5 minutes also to reflect on my end, so to  become aware, give thanks for life and better express my love for and to others.

Oh, we don’t want to think about it – our own death.  But if we did more often maybe we’d actually enter into joy more often that life is a “get to,” not a “have to.”