if you can’t say anything not nice . . .

I’ve decided something important this weekend. I want you all to tell the truth when I die. If you’re going to stand around my non-existent casket (because I will be ashes scattered on the Great Lakes) and talk about what an amazing person I was and what a perfectly inspiring example of Christianity I was, please stay home.
OK, so there’s not much chance of that anyway. But still, forewarned and all.
Notthat I’m saying people were lying in the two memorials I attended this weekend. They were beautiful. Just that the temptation is always there to embellish the good and dismiss the bad when someone dies. And I want that temptation resisted.
Because other people learn from our struggles.
That’s why I currently have a half dozen speaking engagements scheduled this year on the topic of anger and motherhood. Apparently, a lot of other women feel the need to learn something from the fact that I and all three of my kids survived my parenting skills. A lot. Like, it’s rare as a penguin with a sunburn that a mom’s group chooses any of the other twelve topics on the list.
Please don’t tell people when I’m gone I was some kind of paragon of victory. My kids alone will disabuse anyone of that notion. But just in case you’re tempted by the mood, please don’t do it. Just tell the truth.
Because other people feel encouraged when we’re not perfect.
Not that I want to live as the poster child for “Wow. At least I’m better than her.” More like, “Wow. It’s OK to be a work in progress.” Always. As long as things really are progressing.
Because it’s more honoring to say someone tried and failed than to say she never had to try.
I told a friend once that I admired her because, since it wasn’t her nature to always be nice, I knew her kindness to others came out of a struggle to do right. It didn’t exactly come out favorable, as you can imagine. I’m quite good at the backhanded compliment.
But it’s true. I’d far rather have someone say I fought the battle, tried in the face of everything stacked against me, and yes, even failed in the effort. I don’t want to be the person who never went beyond her comfort zone. I don’t want it said that I was a nice, good person. I’d rather be a person with flaws who fought to let Jesus shine through the cracks. I’d prefer knowing people saw me face Goliath and be slain in the process than sit at home strumming my harp. (Um, I don’t play harp. Can we substitute piano? Alto sax? Which I haven’t actually touched in thirty years or so? Whatever.)
Tell the truth when I die. Don’t hedge, mince words, or avoid the subject. To hold up my end of the bargain, I’ll try to live a life that doesn’t make you wish you could.
What do you want said of you?

4 thoughts on “if you can’t say anything not nice . . .

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