The Stories We Tell

I keep thinking about my funeral.

I wonder what people will wear to come see my body be buried. Will it be open casket, where all can gaze at my corpse? Will it be a memorial service where some pastor gives a sermon and asks if people know where they will end up just as I somehow knew where I was heading after this corporeal life. I mostly wonder who would show up at my funeral and what they would say about me and my life. Will they put on rose colored glasses and reminisce about what a great guy I was? Will there be people there that I have hurt who will air their grievances?

What will be said about my life when I am dead?

Who will say it?

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I recently Nish Weiseth’s book Speak. It’s a book about the power of personal story. She insists that the ordinary, the everyday, the normal parts of our story are important pieces that can change the world around us when we open up and share with other people. I’m glad to hear that because ordinary is all I have to offer, especially these days.

I don’t do much. I get through my days, bumbling around at being a parent, failing at being a good husband, going to work when I can, and generally doing the same routine day in and day out, week after week. I don’t mean to sound boring, but I sort of am.

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It’s not so much that I keep thinking about dying, just about what will be said at my funeral. What stories will people tell each other? Those stories are going to be the remembrance of my life.

I remember my Papa who died through the stories I have of him and the stories his children told. Same for my grandma. My memories of her is all stories, snapshots of a life lived. What little I know about my mom I know from the stories of others.

So what stories will be told about me? What kind of person will those stories paint me to be? Who is going to tell those stories?

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I kind of hate the emphasis on story that the evangelical world has right now. It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of personal story, it’s just that it makes me feel like I have to have some sort of great life, some sort of constant adventure, some sort of story worthy happenings so that I have something worth telling.

I don’t have a great story to tell. I only have mine. It’s full of failure and depression. There are good times, triumphs as well. But it’s ordinary. It happens in my days at work and home. My story is about learning to be a father and a husband, learning to believe Jesus again, and learning to live with a mental illness. It’s not that impressive a story. It’s normal, ordinary, and totally and only mine.

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I hope people will remember me as a good man of some sort. I hope they will tell stories about the way I loved my family. Maybe even some stories about how I loved theology. Over all though, I just want people to show up to my funeral, to tell the stories they have. I want to be remembered, to have my stories told and passed along.

I want to have a story that people can remember.

I don’t want to be forgotten.

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Personal stories are powerful, even the boring ones. Sometimes, we just need to hear someone like us so we can say “me too”. So we can know we aren’t alone. Sometimes we need to share them to know that we have been seen, that we will be remembered.

So maybe it’s enough, the small life I lead. Maybe it is enough the stories I tell you on this blog. Maybe it’s enough to know that my story isn’t over, but I still have stories to tell you so you know you’re not alone, and neither am I.

  • Ken Stoll

    Great post Aaron. A few weeks back I read a piece titled something like 6 things not to say at a funeral and so seeing your post struck a chord. Nope, you’re not alone.

  • Love this post Aaron… You have a great story bro.

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