The accolades for Muhammad Ali in the past week have been plentiful, emotional and poignant. From entertainers, to athletes, to politicians and business leaders came words of praise for a man who – in spite of his flaws and faults – changed lives and empowered others to be their true, authentic self.
Many said he was a hero. A hero not for what he did in the boxing ring. But a hero for what he did for others.
Was he a hero?
I say yes. But not because of the words from his celebrated friends. He was a hero because his children said he was a hero.
For the multitude of voices that spoke publicly about Muhammad Ali, it was the voices of his own children, the ones who called him “Dad,” that touched me the most. Perhaps their words came close to me, as a father myself, and played out something I’ve long thought about – the words my own children will share, someday, in their eulogies for me.
I’ve been a father for 27 years. Somewhere along that journey I picked up that nugget of advice. And it resonated to my inner core.
“Everyday, live the eulogy you want your children to give you someday.”
Slightly morbid? Perhaps. I understand that few of us are comfortable with envisioning that moment in time when others are weighing in publicly about those things, which defined our own life.
I’ve given two eulogies in my life. One for my brother. And one for my father. For all the stories I’ve written and articles I’ve authored – nothing has brought me more pride than putting pen to paper to articulate who these two men were in my life.
Perhaps those experiences have made the concept of my own children eulogizing me a little less creepy.
I tell you, I’ve tried (and failed) many times in life at attempts to improve something. Lose weight. Exercise more. Read more. Sleep more. Relax more. And while I usually have temporary successes, I often resort back to bad habits. And so goes the cycle.
But this live-your-own-eulogy-thingy works. It pretty much has the same effect for me as when I see a police car on the road as I’m zipping by going 22 miles over the speed limit.
I slow down. I become aware. And my behavior changes.
It helps me prioritize. It helps me embrace the serendipity of life. It helps me be a little less angry when I’m about to blow a gasket. It makes me stop and count to ten. Or pause before I speak.
It reminds me to tell my children how much I love being their father each and every day.
The truth is, when I think about my own eulogy, I truly realize how much I love being these kids’ father. Each and every day.
Do I want to be a hero?
But I want to be their hero. And only theirs. It is through the unique and lifetime relationship I have with each of them that I want them to know a kind of care that makes them feel safe, loved and a person of value.
“Dad was our hero. And his super-power was the care he gave us each and every day.”
Those are the words I’m hoping for, kids. Someday.