I think we were in our late thirties when someone encouraged us to attend a wedding and a funeral each year. These days, the funerals are outnumbering the weddings. Nonetheless, we are glad that we heard and heeded that encouragement. Every wedding we have seen has softened our hearts, reminded us of the of the commitment we made and the excitement we had looking toward our bright and happy future. Every funeral reminds us that our future will arrive, that it often arrives suddenly or sooner than we think and therefore, we need to make the most of each day we have. While every wedding ceremony is filled with promises of loving actions that build in to a future relationship, every funeral is a personal documentary of what was actually accomplished in our relationship with God and others.
So what will be the overarching theme of your personal documentary? How will you be remembered? What will your spouse, children, extended family and friends say about you? What will those that gather around be saying aloud or simmering upon silently? What indelible mark will you have made upon the hearts and minds of all who have crossed your path? Will others say that our love for God was seen by the way we loved others (more than stuff)?
The world is a seductive place. It is easy to fall into the philosophy that says the one with the most toys in the end wins. This sentiment seems most common amidst the live-for-the-moment, have-it-your-way, have-it-all-now, youthful, but much less so amidst those you meet in their final days. As matter of fact, almost everyone “of age” with fewer days ahead than behind, say that they wish they had done at least a few things differently.
If you ask them to be specific about those things, the answer is most often relationally-based; less time working and more time playing with loved ones; or wishing that hurtful words had been left unsaid, and that more loving words had been shared more freely and frequently. In the book of Ecclesiastes, the wisest and richest man that ever lived considers most of what he accomplished and accumulated as meaningless. In chapter nine, he arrives at the conclusion that a simple life enjoying a relationship with God and with people is of greater value than profits and possessions. It makes sense that this idea aligns perfectly with the two greatest commandments. In the twelfth chapter of Luke, we read about a man that thinks he has finally accumulated all that he will ever need. He decides that now is the time to enjoy it and share it with others. Unfortunately, his time had just run out.
At the end of your days, it won’t matter how much money you have in the bank, how big your house was or what kind of car you drove. What will matter is if your love for God was clearly seen by the way you loved others.
A few years ago, we met with an attorney to revise our will. Since we were already on the finality of life topic, the gentleman guiding us through the process took the opportunity to make a great recommendation. He encouraged us to write a personal note to each of the loved ones we leave behind. He said to fill each note with favorite memories, words of encouragement, blessings and if needed apologies. Not only would the note be a tangible gift, it would be source of tremendous comfort. He urged us to do it sooner rather than later not only because no one knows the day or the hour our time on earth will end, but because it would be easier to do while one was healthy and coherent.
One by one the letters were written. It was heart breaking, humbling, hope-filled and healing all at the same time. Unstoppable tears of joy poured and periodic outbursts of unrestrained laughter bellowed as memory upon memory was recalled, written down and for a moment relived. Each letter was an acknowledgement of each person’s character traits and future potential. Each letter was more of a celebration of the unique and rich relationship we enjoyed with each individual than a final adieu. It became clear how we receive comfort when we offer comfort. What we discovered in the process was the indelible mark each person had made upon our own hearts.
There is no time like the present to change your future. God’s mercies are new every morning. No matter how cheesy the cliché, today really is the first day of the rest of your life Decide how you want to be remembered and seize the day with everyone God puts across your path!
Debra and Matt Trusela