Wealth is more than just money
My great uncle passed away the other week, and with that came the wake and funeral.
We arrived just after 5 p.m. and walked through the large white doors with robust golden handles, signed our family name in the visitation book and were greeted by a desk chalked full of achievements and accolades reflecting back on the decades that once composed a man’s life.
Proceeding through the conveyer belt that is a wake, a flat screen television slowly shuffled snippets of moments encapsulated in a single frame of a picture.
An emotion, a breath so much alive no longer.
I knelt, motioned my left thumb to my forehead, then my chest, my left and right shoulder and I said a small prayer to a man I never really had the opportunity to get to know.
My family and I then moved through the living family starting with my great uncle’s son, his son’s wife, then his daughter and her husband and his other son. Three grown adults middle aged now, having their own lives their own families. Shaking hands and hugging, I didn’t exactly know what to say.
I never really knew what to say in these situations. This man who was the brother to this amazing grandfather I got to call mine. Shaking each son’s hand, and hugging each woman, I muttered, “I’m sorry,” and slowly moved on. My uncle, who kindly greeted me, someone with whom I am very close, stopped me in my tracks. As we shook hands, time began to pass; my mother mingled, my sister and I sat towards the back of the room. My uncle came back up to us, my father and I especially.
He slurred, “Uncle Charlie had died a wealthy man. I don’t know the exact figure, but it was a good chunk of change.”
I stood there for a second, and I began to think about it. My uncle doesn’t exactly get it and most people don’t. Or maybe I’m completely mad and going crazy. Because mine and his definition of wealth differ so greatly.
For my uncle, the wealth he was talking about existed in money and objects. He died with a large amount of money. For me, that’s not wealth; wealth is not something that you spend every day putting in a full eight hours just for a big paycheck. Wealth is to accumulate memories and stories through a lifetime of experience. Wealth is knowledge, living. Wealth is seeing sunrises and sunsets, and then proceeding to chalk your day full with great experiences. Instead of wasting away in a cubicle at a job you’re doing solely to pay a bill, to strive for success, something has been defined by society as making millions of dollars, we should be living, loving and enjoying life.
There is un-comparable wealth taught through reading, living and experiencing; falling down and getting back up is something that can’t be measured and cannot be put into a denomination and can’t be stacked in neat lines. And when someone dies with that kind of wealth, you know it.
So yes, my great uncle may have been wealthy in terms of money. But what he also did was travel, he spent valuable time with his family, visited National Parks, he hiked. That is the wealth that many people so easily overlook. And this is the wealth for which I want to live my life- on, these experiences and these journeys. Because you cannot put a number or a dollar on waking up and just living for you. And that is the wealthiest tip I have ever learned in 20 years of being alive so far. Success and this concept of wealth does not settle in money and those who think it does are naïve and reaching for something that cannot be achieved
Now I refrained myself from saying anything at this moment in time because I was at wake. But I crossed my arms. The words coming out of my uncle was completely muted, my mind turned and wrangled with this sentence that he so easily uttered.