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Verdict over dead man

Verdict over dead man
Stanza from the Song of the High in the Poetic Edda

How will future generations remember our time? You and me? Our rulers? One thing is certain: We will all have our day of reckoning. The verdict of the dead man.

There's an old saying that you die twice; first when you stop breathing, and then finally when someone thinks of you for the last time - that is, when the last person who gives you a thought dies and takes the last memory of you to their grave.

We will all receive a judgment after our death, based on how we lived and what we said and did - or didn't say and do - during our lifetime.

This strophe from the Song of the High (Hávamál) in The Poetic Edda, which was recorded in the Nordic countries around 1,000 years ago (it is thought to have been recorded in the years 800-1250), reflects the value our ancestors placed on earning a good reputation.

By showing courage and action, being honest and generous, speaking the truth and standing up for what was right and proper, they won honour - and through it eternal life.

He, on the other hand, who lacked backbone, was dishonest, spoke with a forked tongue, and betrayed his brethren, received the worst sentence of all, worse than not to be remembered at all, to be remembered as a niding.

Very few win the honour of living forever in the long memory of the people. Ragnar Lodbrok. Leif Eriksson. Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson. Nils Dacke. Gustav Vasa. Gustaf Fröding. Astrid Lindgren. Torgny Segerstedt. Like a flash they enter the scene of life, and just as quickly they are gone. But their names live on.

The best most of us can hope for is to be remembered with warmth by our children, grandchildren, and perhaps great-grandchildren if we are lucky enough to meet them. That will be our judgement, and if you get it, you have done well. Whatever we mere mortals accomplish in our professional lives pales in comparison to the imprint we leave on our families.

It's not too late for you and me to influence our verdict. There is still time to be a good father, a loving mother, a loving partner, an honest and upright person who speaks the truth. There is still time to chase our destiny and win a good legacy - and eternal life.

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