The Funeral I Will Never Forget

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A lesson in what matters white_dove-1485735

I once went to a funeral that I will never forget. Even though it happened over a decade ago, I remember it like it was yesterday.

Before getting into my current career as a leadership and executive coach, I spent twelve years as a full-time pastor. In my time as a pastor in two different churches, I offered pastoral leadership and care to thousands of people. I was used to conducting funeral services packed full, often with hundreds in attendance. These funerals became celebrations of the life and contributions of the ones who had passed. Though there was sadness, there was also gratitude for the life lived and its contributions.

I remember most funerals I was part of, but one I remember more clearly than the others. I was a 23-year-old ordained minister at the time. It was in a smaller community, with decent, kind and caring people. I was called by one of our local funeral homes to conduct a service for an older gentleman who had passed away.

Because I had not known him, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I arrived, I was shocked to see an open casket and just one mourner in attendance. I checked my watch to make sure I wasn’t early. Actually, I was five minutes late. I decided to wait another ten minutes to see if anyone else would arrive. At 11:15 a.m., fully fifteen minutes after the funeral was supposed to begin, still only one mourner and I were there to celebrate and remember a life of more than seventy years.

I went through the motions of the funeral service, but I was forever shaken by that experience. I couldn’t imagine living seventy years and connecting with so few people, touching so few lives that there would be only one attendee at my funeral, along with a paid minister. That event shook me to my core, and I resolved to build a life that was full of life, full of love, full of making a difference.

This goal is recognized by the adage “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away,” attributed to Maya Angelou and others.

See, true kindness is loving people with abundance and authenticity. I am convinced that when we treat each moment as precious and valuable and each interaction with another person as unique and distinctive, we are fully living and authentically loving. When we do that, we attract quality people to ourselves, and we emanate an energy of health and affirmation. Connecting with people on only a surface level leads to surface-level living and surface-level loving and surface-level results.

Part of living abundantly is determining to leave a positive footprint on the world. This sort of determination causes us to act like what we do makes a difference, because in reality, it does! As the saying goes, the meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away. Heart-centred and successful people want to make a difference to the people around them, and they end up being remembered and even celebrated.

In the end, this is how I believe we will be evaluated: Was I a giver and not just a taker? Was I a person who planted, not just someone who harvested? Did I seek to serve, not just to be served? Was gratitude my steady response, or was entitlement? And in the end, did my giving and planting and thanking and serving actually do anything that will last beyond this moment? Let’s live in this moment, but aim for an impact beyond it.

Since that funeral over a decade ago, I have not lived a perfect life. Far from it. But for me, it’s been pretty simple. Live fully. Love authentically. Serve gratefully. Lead effectively, with or without a title. And make a difference. I coach my clients to do the same.

The funeral I will never forget was, more than anything, a reminder to me that this moment matters. Today matters. Tomorrow matters.

And if this moment matters, then I matter. You matter. And when we live like we matter, our impact grows and our reach expands. Lives are healed, transformed and empowered. We’ve got this. Let’s go do it!

Abe-Brown-webAbe Brown is the “coach’s coach,” the founder of Momentum Coaching ( and the president of the Certified Coaches Federation ( The CCF has trained and certified over 9,500 life and executive coaches. Reach Abe at

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