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obit

And I drew, too, the way that my father once looked at a bird lying on its side against the curb near our house.  It was Shabbos and we were on our way back from the synagogue.

“Is it dead, Papa?”  I was six and could not bring myself to look at it.

“Yes,” I hear him say in a sad and distant way.

“Why did he die?”

“Everything that lives must die.”

“Everything?”

“Yes.”

“You, too Papa?  And Mama?”

“Yes.”

“And me?”

“Yes,” he said.  Then he added in Yiddish, “But may it be only after you live a long and good life, my Asher.”

I couldn’t grasp it.  I forced myself to look at the bird.  Everything alive would one day be as still as that bird.

“Why?” I asked.

“That’s the way the Ribbono Shef Olom made his world, Asher.”

“Why?”

“So life would be precious, Asher.  Something that is yours forever is never precious.”

—From My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

“Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, but a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here.  God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember to do whatever he said” (Psalms 103:15-18, MSG).

Call me crazy if you want, but I’ve been checking out the obituaries in the Waco paper.  It’s not every day, and no, I’m not looking for myself.  I’m not sure I can totally explain it, but it feels… honoring.

Every now and then I might see a name I recognize, but for the most part these are total strangers.   Weird, huh?  And I’m genuinely interested.

Early on in my “church” ministry, I did a lot of funerals.  I officiated four to five times more funerals than weddings.  One of my best friends was a funeral director.  He told me more than I ever really wanted to know about the ins and outs of dealing with the dead.

I was so young and so full of myself, I was always more concerned about what I was going to say than who I was actually going to be talking about.   In fact, most of those early funerals I did were for people I had never met.  Talk about flying blind.  Wow.  I’m disheartened when I think of what I could have or should have said at some of those funerals.  I genuinely feel I let those people down.

Lots of years have passed since all of that.  I’ve seen more deaths, comforted more grieving people, and I’ve personally experienced the loss of family members and loved ones.  I still care about what I might actually say at a service, but it’s not nearly as important as honoring the person we are there to mourn, and comforting a family that is stricken with grief.

obitI can’t tell you how many times I sat in the funeral director’s office 15 minutes before the service, before a grieving family member would hand me the obituary for the deceased.  I would hurriedly learn the full name (some older people have some amazing full names), and if the family took the time to give a lot of details, I could put together a fairly insightful and tasteful eulogy to serve several purposes for the attendees.

Most of what is considered the obituary, or “obit,” that you hear at a funeral service, is read verbatim from the article that was written by a family member announcing the service details.  There’s much more creativity in services today, but all the basics are normally still observed.  No matter how it’s done, it still sucks to say goodbye.  It sucks to see the people you love hurting.  It just sucks to have to find some way to help these people find closure.  But, it’s a necessary and legitimate aspect of Kingdom life.

No matter how big, how small, how wordy, or how slim, there is one thing for certain about an obit:

IT IS ONLY A MICROSCOPIC PEEK AT A PERSON’S LIFE

There is no way to tell a person’s life story in an article, a sermon, a memorial, a funeral, or whatever kind of recognition that is being put together.

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO DO THEIR LIFE JUSTICE.  ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE!

I remember watching JFK’s funeral on our little black and white TV.  That was a horribly sad day.  The country mourned.  School’s turned out.  Businesses closed.  All of it combined wasn’t enough to tell the whole story of the man.

Men and women are laid to rest all over the world with full military honors, gun salutes, and patriotic honor.  It’s not enough to tell their story.

Large and small funeral parlor chapels and churches provide a countless number of services for grieving families with broken hearts, but the words are never enough to tell the whole story.  It’s never enough.

Sometimes the obit is all you get.  The last pronouncement that time is up.  Death follows through.  Maybe not today.  Probably not tomorrow.  But soon enough for all of us.

What do you want yours to say?  Your obit.  What do you want the people you care about to write about you?  Or do you care?

I’ll conclude with these two things:

FIRST, SOW INTO YOUR OWN OBIT TODAY—EVERYDAY.   Papa was right in what he told Asher.  There is no such thing as an insignificant moment.  Live large, intentional—focused.  Tell people they matter to you.  Show your love, feed their soul—feed your soul.  Why?  (1) This gig doesn’t last forever, and (2) every day is a gift.  Yeah, it’s that simple.

SECOND, EXPAND YOUR RELATIONAL KNOWLEDGE BASE WITH THE PEOPLE YOU NOW KNOW AND THOSE YOU’RE ABOUT TO MEET.   There is only so much you can know about a person when you’re reading about them after they’re gone.  Not that it’s just about fact finding, but developing your own memories with people is hopefully what remains.

Dig in with all of God’s children and embrace their realities.  Sit in their pain, drink to their successes, encourage their dreams, enjoy their individual and majestic beauty, and notice the kiss of God on another person’s life.

The earth is covered with beautiful flowers.  Love and enjoy them… while you can.

-MDP-

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Me
    March 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    “The earth is covered with beautiful flowers.”
    Soooo true! Love this Babe! Love you!

  2. Christi-An
    March 7, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    wow this is crazy timing!!! It wouldn’t have meant so much except that my grandpa just moved to heaven!!! thanks for sharing tidbits like this!!!

    • March 8, 2014 at 7:17 am

      So sorry to hear about your grandpa. I’m sure he was extremely proud of you! xo

  3. Kayla
    March 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    “Dig in with all of God’s children and embrace their realities. Sit in their pain, drink to their successes, encourage their dreams, enjoy their individual and majestic beauty, and notice the kiss of God on another person’s life.”……This was just the challenge I needed today! Thank you!

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