I graduated from the Ag Urban Institute yesterday. I spent a couple of days every other month with a group of ag and urban folks from around the state. Hosted by the Iowa Soybean Association, we met under the tutelage of Gus Gustafson and explored what it means to be a great leader. Exposed to books, videos, writings and in-depth interaction we learned a lot about each other, about what we wanted in our lives and how we could be better leaders.
On the first day we met, we gave our retirement speech. Then we spent the year figuring out how to have a better one. What kind of leaders did we want to be? What were our strengths, who were good examples, how could we be more effective in our communities? On the last day we were to either give our retirement speech or our eulogy. I’m closer to retirement age than most of the other students so I decided to write my eulogy. No, for me, it’s not macabre. It’s a well thought out exercise of how I want people to see me, a piece of writing that I can live into. It’s a good reminder of how I could choose to live my life. Today, I’m sharing that eulogy with you.
When I do die, and none of us get out of here alive, I’ve asked my niece Sarah to read this at my funeral. She’s the only one I know who could read it and not lose it. I hope that you’ll be at my funeral, but if not, here’s what I’d like said.
Deb Brown’s Eulogy
(written by her before her death because she knew you wouldn’t say these things, but she will.)
Don’t say I was a good person. There were many times when I was not. I was jealous, mean, bitter and ugly sometimes. I cheated, I stole, I did bad things in my life. But by the grace of God, I was given the opportunity to be better, to do better. Possibility for greatness exists for all of us. In my life, I can only hope that I shared that possibility for you with you.
Don’t remember me for some job I did. We all do jobs, and we do what we have to do. Remember me because you like my laugh – I believed in laughing out loud when something was funny. Remember me for singing songs and making up my own words to them. Life is too short to sing a song any way other than the way you want to sing it.
Remember me for being a pain in your ass. Because I believed in you when you didn’t believe in you and I bugged you and bugged you to be your best self. Remember me as someone who made mistakes, who failed many times and still got up – and encouraged you to do the same when you fell down.
Don’t think I want you to be stoic and not cry at my funeral. For God’s sake, even Jesus wept! Please do cry – but don’t cry for me. Cry because you’ll miss me. Cry because we didn’t get to spend enough time together and tell each other stories. You know salt water heals everything and where do you find saltwater? In the ocean, in sweat and in tears. So cry and heal my friends.
When someone is mean to you, think of me and hear me say “it’s not about you, don’t take it personally, they might just need a hug.” When someone ignores you, don’t be upset – think about me and hear me say “they are so wrapped up in themselves, they can’t see you. Pray for them, they need it.”
When you just can’t handle it, when life is not treating you fair, when you’re pissed off at the world think of me. You know what I’d tell you, right? I’d say “let’s have a margarita and talk about it.” Then go have a margarita, laugh out loud, and maybe even say a few cuss words that start with F!
Take a look around you. Yes, right now. In fact, stand up. Yes yes yes – stand up. Now hug the person next to you. Smile and say “Deb loved us.” Because truly, I did.
And finally, know that now I am flying for real.
Psalm 55:6 –And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.