On that which we leave behind …

Last year I was at the funeral of a dear, loving lady and speaker after speaker referred to her in their eulogies as being terrifically well-organised and efficient. “There was more to her than that!” I wanted to shout.

As often happens at funerals you can find yourself reflecting on your own future memorial service, thinking “What would they say of me?” It can be quite sobering. In fact when counsellors and self-help book authors want you to examine your life, your values, and your ambitions one exercise they employ is asking you to imagine your own funeral. What would you like people to say about you and your life? What would you like to be written on your tombstone? Usually it is NOT “He was such a great accountant, he really knew how to balance the books.” Or “She was such a dedicated office-worker, always working long hours and taking work home. What a gal.” This exercise can therefore help you to think about life changes you may wish to make NOW regarding your work-life balance or time spent on nurturing your relationships.

Not all of us can bequeath extraordinary world-changing legacies but we can leave behind a world a little the better for us having been in it, with people remembering the moments of joy we gave them.

This weekend we have been celebrating one man’s undreamt-of legacy to the world, however.

It’s incredible how one man’s inspirational idea can start with a thought, explode outwards then have a huge impact on humankind.   Fate brought the American musician Joel Cohen to Paris in the 1970’s when he won a Fellowship to study there.  He became involved with French radio, producing programmes for France Musique.   There he conceived the idea of celebrating the 21st of June Solstice by having a day of music.  His idea was taken up by the French Ministry of Culture and in 1982 the Fête de la Musique was born.    The idea was that ordinary people should fill the streets with their music-making, offering their talents freely to all.  There is a clever pun at play as Fête de la Musique sounds the same as the phrase Faites de la Musique – “make some music”.    The French have celebrated the 21st of June in this way ever since, wholeheartedly and passionately, and the rest of the world has followed.

In our village, just like in every village, commune and town in France, long tables and benches are laid out, saucisses and frites are cooked and consumed, music is played, and often a little dancing takes place. It is charming. In our village everyone knows everyone, entire generations of families gather for the event, and children run around our little square at liberty.

France celebrates the Fête de la Musique in an enchanting, communal way on the 21st of June , but Geneva really goes to town.

In Geneva there are three days and nights of music of every kind, taking place at venues all over the town, pretty much non-stop.  One can just wander around in the sunshine tuning in to all the different genres, stopping where you will for either a picnic or to eat from one of the omnipresent, multi-racial food stalls.  You can listen to bands playing rock, pop, metal, jazz, electro, country, punk, ethno, house, flamenco, reggae, funk, and world music and orchestras playing classical music, musicians giving recitals, and vocalists singing opera.  It’s marvellous to find a good performance of the kind you really like, but it’s also wonderful to try out new varieties.   I have had special moments listening to Cathedral organ music, unusual choirs, and Swiss yodelling groups.

So thank you Joel.   What a legacy you will have left the world when you depart it.   Meanwhile I will try to remember how I would like to live my life now, for the time which remains, to ensure that they say “she lived it well” at that, hopefully far away, funeral.


Extract from ‘The Measure of a Man’    Author unknown.

Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?
These are the units to measure the worth
Of a man, as a man, regardless of his birth.






Chanson francaise




2 Responses to “On that which we leave behind …”
  1. I’ve been lucky enough to experience ‘fete de la musique’ and this entry took me back to those summer evenings in Geneva listening to a range of music.

  2. Nyika says:

    Excellent post.
    I really like the combination of ones own legacy, the factual history of the “fête de la musique”, and the actual events in your local French village and Geneva.

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