Sunday, January 3, 2010, a man died. A life ended. It was not unexpected, and in fact, came far later than anyone expected. Three days ago as I post this, there was a funeral, and people were given a chance to stand and speak of the man, telling of memories or stories of his life.
I have been thinking for some time about this life, since long before it ended, but especially as I listened to those speaking and I observed his sisters, nieces and nephews, and especially, his own sons.
I noticed that several people, mostly women, spoke in tears about the deceased man. I noticed that, with one exception, none of his sons said much of anything. One or two stories, but nothing to indicate sadness, nothing of the positive role he played in their lives. Silence. I also noticed that nobody spoke of his faith, of his Christianity. One person used the word "generous."
I have thought much, especially as I grow older, about what constitutes a successful life. What has to happen for us to look back, either now or at the end of our lives, and say we are satisfied with the choices we have made, and the legacy we leave to those who follow? That there is some ultimate meaning in our lives?
I have a sometimes habit of reading obituaries. As I read them, I think of my own. An "obit" is what someone else thought was significant about the life of the deceased. Sometimes these mini-biographies are wonderful reading. They speak of a living faith in God and a life that deeply influenced others for good. But usually, they are depressing. Perhaps a man was in the military, then became a plumber, and finally died of cancer. He has a surviving wife, children and grandchildren. Donations to a charity. Not a lot to show for a life.
It appears the man lived a live of little significance. He perhaps had a nice house, a boat, a new pickup, and lots of toys. But he invested in things and himself. Perhaps in his children. Our lives are measured by relationships, with God and with people, not the things we own.
Too many of our lives are spent on ourselves and our desires. We choose to live a life of little importance or significance. The world is little different from our having lived.
I don't want that. We are not designed for that. I want it to matter that I have lived. I want leave the world different, better than I found it, if only a little. I want at least a handful of lives to be different for having known me. I want my life to bring honor to God, to point others to him. And I want others to know that I have no fear of death, but rather look eagerly to meeting my Lord face to face.
I want to live such a life that my children joyfully testify at my funeral, that they are proud to be my children.