If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone?
When my dear father-in-law, Norm, died a couple years ago, we all mourned the loss of this generous, funny, and oh-so-loving man. Most people know the pain of losing someone who has such a unique spirit. It takes a lot to move through the grief and accept the gaping hole that’s left by their death.
But here’s what’s worse: when that grief is layered with regret.
It breaks my heart when I’m at a funeral and people tell beautiful and funny stories about the person who died — and then they say, “I wish I would have told her that.” “She would have loved to hear these stories.”
As much as I miss Norm, I have no regrets about anything left unsaid. You see, Norm got to hear all the great things we shared at his funeral. We said all of it — and more— in a Celebration Book we gave him for his 70th birthday.
Thirty of Norm’s family, friends, and colleagues all responded to questions I sent them about Norm. Things like, “What do you love best about Norm?” or “What are your favorite memories of times you shared with him?” or “What have you learned from Norm?”
Folks sent appreciations, stories, humorous anecdotes, family lore, photos, drawings and even some heartfelt crayon scribbles from the tiniest members of the family.
People had a blast remembering stories and digging up old photos. It’s impossible to participate in something like this without being filled with joy! All too often in life our monkey minds are trying to get us to focus on what’s wrong or what’s missing; working on these books is a practice in seeking what is good.
It made me so incredibly happy and at peace to know that Norm got to hear all the reasons we loved him so much. He got to hear the tales that made up the storyline of his life with us. He got to laugh at all his memorable antics. He got to see himself reflected in the eyes of all the people who knew him best. He got a whole kaleidoscope of love —all between the pages of a book. And because it was in a book, he got to read it over and over again before he passed away.
After Norm died, I pulled out his book and found such solace in re-reading all the entries and seeing his charming spirit so alive on every page. When I was making the book for him, I never thought about how essential it would be for my healing process and that of the rest of the family. Because, you see, whenever any of us opened up that book, like magic, his “Norm-ness” was right there!
We got to re-live that trip to Mexico when he and Sue got locked in a jail because they wanted to buy art made by the prisoners. We got to laugh at how Norm would always finish anyone’s dessert; all we had to say was “Norm?” and hold up our half slice of peach pie or tiramisu. We got to share smiles over the way he was so game for anything — the way he’d throw his arms up in the air and say “what the hell!” when we’d suggest a game of blindfolded taste testing of the nasty-flavored jelly bellies or a scavenger hunt or that he be a judge for our “Iron Chef” competition using pop rocks and potatoes.
So, people got filled with love creating the book as a surprise for him. Then, Norm got the joy of being seen and recognized while he was alive. And then … we all got an amazing keepsake tribute book about him after he died.
These books are potent. Don’t wait; say it now!
Sign up for my DIY Celebration Book Making Class: I want everyone to receive one of these life-affirming books! To make it super-easy for folks to make them, I’ve created an e-course that outlines the step-by-step process and includes all the templates you need, a resource list for materials, plenty of how-to tips, and inspiring audio/videos. I can save you lots of time and trials by sharing everything I know about creating Celebration Books. The five-week class is $29. http://simplycelebrate.net/diy-celebration-book-class (Note: To win a free spot in this DIY class email Sherry by October 31 at 12n PT and tell her in one paragraph what you love about the person you want to create a book for. Sherry will pull one name out of a hat (literally!) and you can start the class immediately.)