When I meet a new client who has recently moved to Florida, they’re usually very excited. They’ve wrapped up a career. The kids are grown and on their own. It’s time to relax and enjoy free time. It seems that they have a new lease on life. I’m happy for them.
For some, however, things change rapidly. Over the next several years some encounter a few health problems, perhaps major ones. Others worry about whether the money will run out. Then, one by one, friends die off.
That’s when I see them grow old.
When I say “old” I really mean that they seem to lose a purpose. During our working years when raising a family, there’s plenty of “purpose” to go around. But when you’re no longer needed at the office, and your children are super busy building careers and raising their own families, finding purpose seems to be more difficult.
That’s when the endless trips to the doctor’s office, spending hours in their waiting rooms beats us down. What more is there to life?
New York Times columnist David Brooks may have hit on something remarkable in his column asking whether our society is too focused on resumé virtues as opposed to eulogy virtues. The resumé virtues are the skills that you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral – whether you were kind, brave, honest, or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?
It may be ironic, but my take on his column is that building eulogy virtues keeps us young. Many of us can find a deeper meaning and purpose in late life building those eulogy virtues. We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the resumé ones. Our culture and educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities that you need to radiate an inner light.
Since we tend to focus on external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of us go unexplored and unstructured. That’s when your retirement years can be spent narrowing the gap between your actual self and your desired self, between you and those people you meet who seem to radiate joy.
We’ve all met those people. I believe that my daughter Courtney is such a person. She brightens a room just by entering it. Courtney recently graduated with her doctorate in physical therapy. She has a number of job offers from those whom she interned with in her program. Everywhere she’s worked it’s mentioned how the patients love her and request her for their next appointment! And this was as an intern!
Courtney loves people and it shows. She doesn’t mention much about herself, instead she asks all about the person she’s with. What I’ve noticed about people who radiate life is that they are humble. Today’s world wants us to promote ourselves. Social media feeds become a highlight reel of our lives. But all the people I’ve ever admired don’t have a desperate need for approval. C.S. Lewis remarked that “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” That describes my former law partner John Sheppard to a “T”. He awoke each morning not thinking about what he could do for himself, but what he could do for others that day.
Sadly, John passed away a couple of months ago. Yet he remained young in outlook to the end of his days.
One thing that John was good at was making friends with those younger than he. As you get older, your friends tend to die off, leaving you lonely. John was never lonely. He engaged with the world, and in particular with those who needed help with their daily struggles. That’s what kept him young. He and his wife Ellen, for example, gave teddy bears to children being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
After my working years are over (which probably won’t be for many years yet,) I hope that I’ve been able to build and then strengthen my eulogy virtues. It’s not because I would plan to die soon, rather I believe that building these virtues will help keep me young.
©2022 Craig R. Hersch – The Sheppard Law firm. Learn more at floridaestateplanning.com