Legacy: Will They Throw An Orange or A Blackberry At Your Funeral?


Legacy : Will They Throw An Orange Or A Blackberry At Your Funeral?

Public Speaking, Legacy
The oranges bounced off the coffin like hail stones off the roof of a car. Boom. Boom. B-Boom! While onlookers stared in amazement, the small group standing and throwing them smiled reminiscing and recollecting a lifetime of shared moments.  One single red rose and a dozen oranges. The family and friends slowly walked away from the open graveside. I was left on my own. It may have looked strange to others watching that day, but for the family involved nothing could have been better.


Being given the privilege to lead a funeral service was a role I never took lightly. While it can be difficult to put into words what to say when you have spent a lifetime with someone you love, writing and speaking the final words for someone you haven’t met is a challenge. You can buy books with prepared speeches; but I never believed that you should sum up a life by reading a set eulogy.

Over the ten years I served as a minister of a church in my community I led many funerals. Typically, you get just a few minutes to sum up a life. Yes, you can easily fill ten minutes with platitudes. I believed I owed the person more than that. I would visit the family, find out as much as possible and then try to sum up something in a sentence or phrase that the would represent the life that had passed. I would write an individual speech, a eulogy, that captured something intrinsic about the person who had died. I did that for George, it was called, “An Orange Says It All.”

George (not real names) died when he was 82. He had lived on his own for about 10 years after his beloved wife, Maisie, had died. They had been married for over 50 years when sadly she passed away after a short illness. They had two sons and a daughter, and 7 grandchildren. They had lived in the same house for the whole of their married lives. Routines never changed, every Sunday afternoon the extended family would gather and the one thing that always accompanied these gatherings was oranges. George loved oranges. As the family would arrive each Sunday a packet of oranges were passed over at the door, almost like an entrance fee. Nothing could have been better to symbolise the life they shared as a family than an orange.

As the oranges were peeled and eaten it symbolised:

  • Contentment – Sitting on his lap and at his feet, every Sunday afternoon visit, George would tell engaging stories to his grandchildren. It was the same way that he had done for his children over the years they had grown up. It felt safe. It felt comfortable. It felt secure.
  •  Commitment – Though occasionally interrupted by holiday and illness, Sundays were always the same. The priority of family took precedence over anything else.  It was important. It was consistent. It was unchanging.
  • Companionship – Brothers would meet sister, sister in law meet brother in law. The whole family would be together.  It became an extended family. It became friendship. It became a tradition.

Nothing could have been better that day than to throw oranges 6ft down onto the coffin. Nothing could have been better for the legacy that George and Maisie left for their family. Nothing could have been better as a tribute than to throw oranges at his funeral. When the family asked me what is normal, I said, doesn’t matter, throw an orange for your dad.

What will they throw at our funeral?

  • A Blackberry? (and not the fruit kind I mean here)
  • A set of golf clubs?
  • A laptop?

What would be the symbol of a life well lived they could throw at our funeral?

  • Photos of children free of sexual abuse because we cared enough to act?
  • Letters of gratitude from the African villagers who now have clean water because we cared enough to act?
  • A family who stand and reminisce the shared times together and throw memories towards us because we cared enough to act and take steps to create a legacy for those we love. What will they throw at your funeral?

I hope that these few words from an experience in my life encourage you to take some time to think about the legacy you are leaving, I would love to hear from you if they do.

Sources : Image stock.xchng

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Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Happiness, Legacy, Public Speaking

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

One Response to Legacy: Will They Throw An Orange or A Blackberry At Your Funeral?

  1. Pingback: The-Amazing-Secret-To-Create-A-Legacy-That-Counts | Keynote and Motivational Leadership Speaker, Speech Writer and Coach

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