When I was younger, I thought it was morbid for folks to read obituaries. And I could see no reason why anyone would go to a funeral. My rationale was that I’d just as soon remember them when they were still alive. Why did old people do that?
Well, now that I’m classified as one of the “old people,” I think I understand. We’re at that time of our lives when we think about God’s plan for our eternal life and reflect on what contributions, if any, we’ve left in this path we’ve trod. Have we created any lasting legacies? Did we do some good things for our little piece of the world? Have we lived a life of which our families can be proud?
Recently, longtime church member Larry Penney passed away. I thought I knew Larry, sometimes directly from interactions with him and sometimes from his wife, Jane. But, in his obituary, I learned much more about him. In addition to his medical career, he loved visiting national parks across the country. I also learned that he was a master gardener for orchards. At his funeral, I heard his sons tell how they would complain when they were young that he’d let people pay him for his services in eggs, bread, and produce, thinking they were ripping-off their dad. It wasn’t until later in life that the sons realized that this was one of Larry’s ways of treating his patients respectfully, knowing they were paying for his medical services with what they were able. It was also his way of living-out his Christian faith.
Obituaries and funerals often teach or reaffirm for me what kind of life I should be living so that Christ is seen through my behavior and actions. And, of course, these rites of passage are a way to pay honor to the deceased: yes, they were loved on Earth and made a difference here. Reading about their lives and hearing their stories helps spread an understanding to those of us who may not have even known them that they impacted the world, even if in just a small corner of it.
As a broken, sinful person, I pray that I continue learning lessons from those who have passed into God’s kingdom and that I can leave this world having positively contributed to it.
Your friend in Christ,
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.