I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what people say about you when you’re gone. It’s spurred on by the remembrances of Tim Russert, of course. People have wonderful things to say about him. Although people are usually hesitant to speak ill of the dead, when this many people are saying similar good things, you know there’s truth in it.
His friends, colleagues, former rivals and others have told wonderful stories of his kindnesses professional and personal. Rick Sanchez told a story the other night that in a former job, when he really didn’t know what he was doing, Russert was the one well-known journalist who never gave him a disparaging look or anything other than respect when he was trying to learn. Many colleagues, including Campbell Brown, have told stories of Russert being very generous professionally, giving them tips that would make them look good to the higher-ups. Numerous people have mentioned personal notes arriving at just the right time – after a parent’s death, a child’s recuperation from an illness or the celebration of an accomplishment.
This public grief is a fascinating thing. I thought of it when Gerald Ford died, and also when Reagan died. It’s almost as if we get to truly know the person after they’re dead. Why is that? Doesn’t that seem backwards? How do we learn to appreciate the people in our lives now, today, while we can still interact with them?
Aside from remembering the person who is gone, this mourning process gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves in this context. What would people say about us? While most of us are not going to have many hours of network news time devoted to us, or The Boss dedicating a song to our memory, its nonetheless valuable to consider what people would say about us based on the lives we’re leading.
Facebook has an app now called “Honesty Box,” where people can leave anonymous comments saying what they think about you. It’s a great idea. Unfortunately for me, few people I know are actually on Facebook so I don’t think it would be very helpful.
I guess the other question is do you want to know what people think about you. I think the answer to that is “yes.” It gives you an opportunity to increase the positive things you’re doing and to change some of the less desirable ones. It also would give you an opportunity to see if there are perceptions of you that are untrue, which may mean you’re not expressing yourself well. That may or may not be worth addressing, but it’s valuable to know.
This season of mourning has left me questioning what people would say about me if I were suddenly departed. Would anyone have anything positive to say? How would they remember our interaction? Would there be remembrances of times spent together? What would people say?