A few weekends ago, I attended the funeral of a high school teammate’s father. Although I wasn’t a close friend of the family, I had always held them in high regard, and felt it only right to show my respect for them during such a difficult time.
What I could not have predicted was how impactful attending that funeral would be. When I walked out after the service, I felt that it had been less a funeral than a profound spiritual experience. It had also made me start thinking about what my own funeral – and that of so many of my generation – would look like when the time came.
The things that were said about my teammate’s father were all the things that should be said at a man’s funeral: he loved God, his country, and his family. He was a compassionate and inspiring father, an example of holy manhood to his sons and a father who offered steady encouragement to his daughter. He was a loving and faithful husband to his wife, a loyal friend to his peers and brother, and a devoted mentor to the many young people he had served over the course of his lengthy professional and volunteer careers. He had a keen sense of humor, but was not vulgar. He was full of life, but sober. He always had a word of encouragement, never one of anger. He had a deep respect for those who had served this country, a profound faith in Christ, and the sure hope of resurrection.
At the beginning of the service, the pastor spoke the following words from Ecclesiastes, and they seemed to apply perfectly to my teammate’s father: “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you were born.” It was in this man’s death that his virtuous life was truly evident, each page of it read with conviction by the many who had witnessed it: his family and the greater the greater community. When the packed sanctuary resounded with “Amazing Grace”, the Spirit of God was truly palpable. Here was a man of whom it could be truly said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
During and after the service, I could not help but think on how starkly this man’s funeral contrasted with the lives and ultimate legacy that so many young people are mapping out for themselves in today’s world, which has devalued the principles that make life truly rich. When the young people of today have lived out a life of materialism, atheism, epicureanism, and self-imposed isolation from true human relationships, what will be left to say at their funerals? With couples choosing to reject the gift of children and the proliferation of broken family structures, who will be there to gather around the people of this generation when they are old? Where will be the harvest of a life well lived – the gratitude and admiration of the community, the love of children and wife, the gift of faith and optimism instilled in those we have encountered?
Every day of our lives, we are writing a word of our obituary, a line of our eulogy. We have the power to determine how we will be remembered, to live our lives purposefully and fully. Glamorous careers that enabled us to spend profligately on ourselves and perfectly documented vacations to trendy locales will seem empty remembrances. Social media followers won’t show up at our funerals, and we won’t wear our latest technological gadgets into the next life, but missed opportunities for love and personal integrity will haunt our legacies. Let us live life in the light of its end, and store up for ourselves lasting treasures.