This morning I watched one of the memorial services for one of our great Patriots and Sons. One by one dignitaries stepped up to the podium to deliver heartfelt sentiments and recollections of a man they loved and served with. The tributes were moving to say the least. As I often do when watching this type of service, my imagination began to spin as I contemplated my own eventual mortality. It is a reality that no one escapes from. Young or old, rich or poor famous or obscure, we will all face death. And the question has once again come back to me like a distant relative, exactly what will be said over me and my life when I reach the end?
I recently attended the service of a friend and neighbor, who also happened to be a war veteran. There was no minister to deliver a eulogy, no family cared to share any thoughts, no friends reminiscing old stories. When asked if anyone had anything to share, not a single person stepped forward. There was such an overwhelming sense of sadness that no one had anything to offer in celebration and remembrance of this life. I have attended similar services where ten or twelve people bothered to show up, and mostly family, and wondered how this long life could have impacted so few. The mere thought that it might be the same for me someday is sobering.
How did I live my life? Did I leave any signs behind that I was there? How many lives did I affect or impact? Was such impact more positive or negative? Was I a good friend to anyone who needed one? Was I a good neighbor? Will I be fondly remembered and revered as a good father or could I have done more to teach and influence my children? Did I make being a grandparent look like the joy that it is? Do all my grandchildren realize I would without hesitation give my life to save theirs? Will I be recalled for having a pleasant demeanor or for being a bit of a drag? Did I do my best to have fun in life or did I let life steal from me my joy? Will I be known for having fought courageously through every trial I faced in a way that encouraged others and gave them hope, or was my pain and resentment too obvious to ignore? Did I truly love others as commanded or was it a façade? Did I go out of my way to touch the lives of people put in my path or did I sidestep them and leave them for someone else to minister to? Did I give when I could? Did I leave anything behind in spoken or written words that will continue to encourage others? Did I instill enough of my beliefs and values into my kids that they can navigate their lives with more hope and confidence or did I let them down by not walking what I was talking? And perhaps more important than anything else, did I leave behind enough evidence of my convictions in Christ?
These are tough questions because I’m not sure I can answer them the way I want to, nor am I sure how others would answer the same on my behalf when my time comes to leave. In a very real sense, it goes back the age old question, how would your life change if you knew you had but one week left to live. It is so easy to get bogged down with the affairs, the circumstances, the unsolicited challenges we all face in life. Some are capable of easily rising above anything that intrudes their comfort while others take on water and sink quickly into oblivion. A wise man once wrote that a life is comprised of 10% of life events and 90% of how you respond to them. It should cause the most influential of men to pause and take inventory on a regular basis. Another writer said that it isn’t the dates on a tombstone that are vital but rather it’s the dash between them; what does the dash signify? How was the dash spent or exploited? Is the dash indicative of a life well lived or simply a flatline with no significance?
When the turbulence in the water comes to be still, the ripples it created roll on indefinitely. God how I pray that my life creates ripples, how my words immortalize hope and love and how my eventual death inspires others to fully live. It’s been a rough few years but it’s never to late to make a ripple. I don’t want to leave anything on the table when I go. I want to be able to say I went all-in on every hand and that I won a few along the way. My greatest fear is that few will step up to the podium when asked to share; My greatest desire when looking down on my own memorial is that I will be able to hear, he laughed loudly, he danced unashamedly, he loved deeply, he gave generously, he lived fully and he inspired continuously. Guess I still have some work to do. Peace.