Pop Pop Epistle #86 -About Your Funeral (and Alfred Nobel)
A great leadership lesson to learn early in your life goes like this: Begin with the end in mind. It has a lot of life applications.
For instance, it is never too early to start thinking about what you might want people to say about you at your funeral. I know that probably sounds kind of morbid but the fact is that we are all going to die and people will tell stories about us when we do. If you were a fly on the wall at your own funeral what would you want to overhear?
Now that I am approaching middle age (as a very young 61 year old), it is something I think about. But it is something I hope you will think about early in your life. Let me tell you a story to help you understand why.
At some point you will learn about the Nobel Peace Prizes. These are prizes that are awarded annually by Sweden to people around the world who have done outstanding work in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. At present the award is a $900,000 cash prize as well as enormous worldwide prestige. What most people do not know is the backstory.
Alfred Nobel was born in Sweden in 1833 and was a brilliant chemist. In 1863, he began tinkering with nitroglycerin, a highly volatile liquid that had been recently discovered. Nitroglycerin remained very dangerous though and in 1864 Nobel’s nitroglycerin factory blew up, killing his younger brother and several other people. In 1867, after much work he discovered a safe way to use a nitro based compound that had many industrial uses. His patented compound became known as dynamite and secured for him a great fortune.
To his dismay, his invention also began to be used in warfare and many people were killed because of its use in combat. in 1887, one of Nobel’s brothers died in France, and French newspapers printed obituaries in which they mistook him for Alfred. One headline read, “The merchant of death is dead.”
Alfred Nobel had the opportunity to read his own obituary and he did not like what he read. So he set out to create a legacy that changed the way that he would be forever remembered. Upon his death in 1896, the majority of his vast estate went to the creation of what became known as Nobel Peace Prizes – a much better way to be remembered don’t you think?
The idea of “beginning with the end in mind” is certainly a biblical one. Malachi 3:16 talks about a Book of Remembrance…
16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
In Matthew 6:20, Jesus spoke of storing up treasure in heaven, The implication is that what is done on earth is forever recorded in heaven. Our hope is that one day we will all stand before God and hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21).
So my dear grand younguns, I encourage you throughout your days to remember this: Begin with the end in mind!
And never forget that you are very loved!