04/10/2012 10:53 am ET Updated Jun 10, 2012

Are You Prepared To Die?

We have all had the mortality talk. Alone or with others, it is a subject most everyone has put at least a little bit of thought into. When most people think about this subject, the first thing that comes to mind is the 'how.' The manner in which we will pass on is a source of fear for some and a morbid curiosity for others. Usually the next question pondered is the 'when.' Thanks to human nature, every one of us wants to know exactly when to expect the grim reaper to come knocking. In fact, there are entire websites dedicated to predicting the time of our individual deaths. Life insurance companies and funeral homes thrive on our preoccupation with death and the need to prepare for its inevitability.

However, the questions that seem to be becoming of less and less importance are ones that I have asked myself many times. How will I be remembered by those who knew me? What will my legacy be? When asking yourself those questions, do you like the answers? Will those that knew you consider you to be a good person? Will they look back over your life and remember only someone who stepped over others in order to further their ambitions? Or will they remember someone who worked hard to provide for their family and yet still had time to be a good friend, admirable parent and benevolent spouse? With abundance and affluence at the helm of our proverbial ships and spiritual prosperity and happiness casually being towed behind, where does that leave our reputations once we are dead and gone? Do we even care?

As our economy weakens and our moral fibers fray, the acceptance of dishonesty, swindling and melodrama seems to be propagating at an alarming rate in our society and the importance of one's word, honor, dignity and good neighbor-style business practices no longer seem to hold the same value they once did. I have been to several funeral services over the past few years where what seemed to be the legacy of the deceased was only a rich resume full of savvy business moves and impeccable negotiation skills. Shouldn't we return our focus to being commendable, considerate people worthy of trust and respect?

The word "legacy" is one that has seemingly fallen by the wayside in recent years. Its actual definition lends itself to a more monetary meaning. However, previous generations seemed to hold the importance of one's legacy in a much higher regard than that of a final will and testament. It was a phrase used as a testament to the person's character and reputation as a human being. Maybe if we turn our focus to principled attributes as the importance of what we leave behind after death, we would be able to get our society back to a place of trust and honor. As you lay your head on your pillow this evening, ponder this: "If I were to die tomorrow, will the legacy I leave behind be one of respect and dignity or one of deception and deceit?" Remember, as the old saying goes, "In the end, your reputation is all you really have."

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