This week has been an eventful and insightful one. My dad passed away last week, after a long life (85 years) and a relatively short stay in hospital. Now, with Dad at peace, the funeral and celebration of his life over, and my family having returned to their homes far and wide, there’s time for reflection.

Death, or even near death, always offers new perspective – on what we can and cannot control in life, on what truly matters… and what is simply irrelevant or insignificant.

As someone who has had a few brushes with death, I am always grateful for the reminder of how precious life is, and the opportunity to ask myself: Am I living in the present? Do the people I love know that I love them? And if this was my moment to “exit” would I leave the world a better place? In other words, am I doing what matters – to me and to others?

At my dad’s funeral, his granddaughter (my niece) read this poem by Michael Josephson. It was a fitting and beautiful tribute to my father, who led a life of authenticity, kindness and generosity that mattered to so many. In this poem, Josephson truly captures what in the end will be the measure of one’s life.

What will it matter?

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 even matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.

Even your gender and skin colour 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 circumstances but of choice.

Choose to live a life that matters.

Author's Bio: 

I’m a girl from the Canadian prairies who likes wide-open spaces, fresh ideas, a great story, and inspiring environments, buildings and art of all kinds. I have written feature stories about architecture, urban, rural and lakeside living, cool neighbourhoods, and everything from business to pleasure (tourism and travel).

I believe that powerful writing, too, can link the artistic with the practical.

My feature writing has appeared in: Ottawa Citizen, Winnipeg Free Press, The Western Producer, The Cottager, Manitoba Business Magazine, Manitoba’s Northern Experience, Home & City, Manitoba Gardener, Ciao and up! (WestJet’s magazine).

Barbara Edie