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“Oh, I wasn’t expecting you to be home.”

“That’s the easiest way for me to answer the phone. What’s up mom?”

“I have the arrangements for your grandmother’s funeral. The service will be at the funeral home on Thursday at 11am.”

“Thursday? November 11th at 11am? I have three uncles who are veterans and they are good with a funeral at 11am on Remembrance Day?”

“Well, yes, that is when the funeral home had time. Nothing can be done about that.”

“I wont be there then. I have services to conduct at the cenotaph and that is where I’ll be. I’ll attend the funeral home on Wednesday to pay my respects.”

“Get someone else to do it. It’s your grandmother’s funeral.”

“Mom… I took on certain obligations when I took that oath to be branch president. One of them is ensuring that the public observances of our most important day of the year is carried out with decorum. I can’t just drop the details into someone’s lap two days before. It takes me weeks to put it together.

I’d really like to be at grandma’s service but I can’t be two places at once. Later in the day, I could attempt to get there.”

“Well! Apparently you don’t care!” and the line went dead

That was an actual conversation I had with my mother. It was her mother who had died, so, for a while, I incurred her wrath. She was right to a point, there is a family obligation to attempt to attend a funeral. Sometimes, it just can’t happen.

We’ve all come across similar situations, having to decide which conflicting obligation takes precedence. For me, in this situation, it was pretty clear cut. I had a duty to carry out. Grandma’s service was being handled by someone else.

I may have been able to delegate to my second in command except he was new to the position and had only just started shadowing me. I didn’t have someone to call on to step into my shoes who had previous experience, my predecessor was seriously ill. For me, duty meant giving up being with family on that occasion.

It’s been a struggle at times over the years to learn to look at situations and decide what is an actual overriding obligation which I’m duty bound to meet and what is a sense of obligation which could, and in some cases, should be delegated to someone else.

Obligations vary. They can be legal obligations we all have to obey the law, to file and pay our taxes or to care for and protect our children. There are also social, moral, religious, political and traditional obligations. No one lives without obligations of some sort.

We don’t always think of them as obligations. Often they are thought of as something we need to do because that is they way things are done. There are also obligations which arise through commitments we make with others.

When I undertake to support someone or something, I have made a commitment to help. I can define how far that obligation goes, but it is still something I have undertaken until I choose to no longer do so.

I’ve found that my own personal growth is intertwined with how I view obligations, either toward others or myself. When I make decisions about something I need to do for my own personal growth and treat those decisions as a personal obligation, growth happens. When I neglect them, it doesn’t.

It’s important to recognize obligations for what they are, prioritize them and then act on them. I decide the priority and I’m responsible for the outcome. I learned that when I stood up to my mother over that funeral and have never forgotten it.

It’s important to recognize obligations for what they are, prioritize them and then act on them. I decide the priority and I’m responsible for the outcome. I learned that when I stood up to my mother over that funeral and have never forgotten it.