Life After Death
Getting to the heart of the matter
I was a death investigator long before death was cool. Years before television glorified forensics, I was examining bodies, notifying families of the death of a loved one and serving as an expert witness in court. For almost two decades of my life, the science of death fascinated me. But not as much as the behaviors, lifestyles and choices of the people whose deaths I investigated.
In the world of forensics, I saw things that can never be described. Living conditions that are the exact opposite of what you and I are used to. And I’m not just referring to homelessness and hovels. I’m also talking about deplorable emotional and psychological conditions that, from the outside looking in, you’d never, ever imagine. Horrible, sad, invisible, fatal disrespect.
I’ve seen people suffer from work conditions that overwhelmed them to the point where the only way out they could see was to end their lives. I’ve read hundreds of suicide notes that described, in disturbing detail, the raw emotional results of bullying, unkindness and discrimination. And I’ve heard stories about corporate incivility that would break your heart. Stories that came straight from the mouths of those who remained after someone they loved died as a result of it.
I have also seen magnificent, beautiful examples of love, friendship, support, companionship, understanding, caring, courage and survival that have humbled my heart beyond words.
Naturally, people think it’s horrible or disturbing or scary to work with death for a living. It’s not. Every time I looked at a body, I saw it as a home for the soul.
Yet we forfeit our soul’s home when we get caught up in our ‘stuff’. Hey, I’m no different – I love collecting items of quality. But believe me, none of it comes with us when we’re gone. I’ve seen thousands of human hearts, and not one – not one – has been diamond-encrusted or logo-embossed. Those ones – the external hearts that shimmer and gleam – are left behind on the countertop, in a safe, or tucked away in the top drawer after the body’s been removed.
It’s the hearts I couldn’t see that so deeply touched me. The broken hearts of the people who were left behind to grieve the loss of a loved one. The morphed hearts of parents who would forever wonder what their child might have become. The love-filled hearts of those who were grateful for a lifetime of devotion. And the lonely hearts – members of an exclusive club that no one wants to belong to.
That’s why I believe we each have two hearts; a physical heart and a spiritual heart. One, the organ, is tangible. It dies when life ceases. The other one – the spiritual heart – never dies. It lives forever in the hearts, minds, memories and souls of others. No one can tuck that heart away.
Too many of us don’t take care of our spiritual hearts. We let them wither, harden, and beat without care. We get busy adorning our exterior – sometimes to reveal ourselves and sometimes to disguise ourselves – and in the process we lose ourselves. When that happens, we run the risk of becoming nasty, self-centered and disrespectful.
One thing that I know for certain I learned from both death and life. And that is that it matters, it really, truly matters, how we treat ourselves and how we treat one another. It’s simply not worth it to be unkind.
Like you, I know what it’s like to work with a jerk. I understand what it’s like to feel out of place. And, on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself without a clue about what to say, what to do, or what to wear. That’s why I do what I do now – help people gain confidence and earn respect. I am on a mission to reverse rudeness and create courteous corporate cultures because I’ve witnessed the death of civility, and I believe that I have a responsibility – a calling, if you will – to do something about it.
Businesses need to be reminded that they, too, have a heart. Because without one, they simply become people mills – like puppy mills, but with human lives. Leaders (and if you’re reading this I suspect you’re a leader), have to lead by example. How do you do that? By having zero tolerance for discourtesy, apathy, lateness, poor quality and sloppiness in your workplace. After all, when you lower your standards do you lower your fees?
Some people say that what I share are ‘soft skills’. Trust me, they’re some of the hardest – and most valuable – skills you’ll ever learn.
Remember this: there is never one place where we suddenly land and finally get it ‘right’. This glorious journey we’re on is not about right and wrong. It is about growth, evolution and understanding.
Life is one, big, beautiful adventure. Yet we procrastinate. And every time we do, we put our lives on hold. I know very well that there may not be a tomorrow for me. That’s why I live my life boldly today. And I urge you to do the same. Don’t wait another second – go for it!
Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO™, a corporate civility consultant and professional speaker who helps individuals & businesses gain confidence, earn respect and create courteous corporate cultures.
©Copyright 2011 Sue Jacques ~ The Civility CEO™. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share as long as the content is intact and the writer is credited. Thank you!