What will you be remembered for?

Listen to any funeral sermon and you will soon realise that what we value is not how rich or how independent we are, how far we travelled or how much we hoarded. It is how much we gave, how much we loved, how much we were loved.
                        Nick Spencer

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about death over the last few months.  No, I’m not just being morbid, we’re thinking of doing a project on death at work, and it has really caught my imagination.

One potential slant of the project is to look at what death – and specifically our attitudes to it and around it – tells us about life. 

Read any number of headstones, obituaries or funeral sermons, and you’ll quickly learn what humans really value when it boils down to it – they rarely say ‘He was very rich’, ‘She sealed some good deals for the company’, ‘He had a lovely car’ or ‘Her face had very few fine lines, and her hair stayed its natural colour right till the end.’  Have you ever seen a gravestone marked ‘In loving memory of mother. She was very thin’?

The things we strive for and spend so much time, effort and money on are not, we discover, the things people treasure about us. ‘He/she was kind, generous, caring, positive, joyful, always there for her friends and family, would do anything for anyone…’ these are the kinds of things that are considered virtues, worthy of mention at funerals.

Sure, achievements do get mentioned too, particularly in obituaries of the rich and famous, but it is notable that tributes are more likely to be about a person’s personality than his or her CV/resume.

So what do you want to be remembered for? What are you putting in place today that will contribute to that?  I want to make a difference in the world, I want to have a whole list of achievements to look back on, and it frustrates me sometimes that I don’t seem to be making much progress towards them.  Increasingly, though, I’m being challenged not to neglect the things that really matter – friendships, generosity and service.

If I have all the success in the world, but have not love (to paraphrase Paul), I am but a clanging gong or resounding cymbal.

Who have you shown love to today?

6 Comments On This Topic
  1. newsong40
    on Jul 31st at 9:14 am

    For another great perspective on relationships and achievements, hop over to this post on my brother’s blog. http://blog.hafchurch.org/peter/index.php/2010/07/i-dont-have-the-guts-do-you/#idc-container
    It’s powerful stuff.

  2. Virginia
    on Jul 31st at 10:32 am

    Another thing that people are remembered for is their humility and humbleness.
    People who are humble are often the kindest people, giving more to others than themselves; however, they don’t see it and they strive to be even kinder and even more generous when, in actual fact, they are already loved by so many for their deep kindness, compassion and love.
    These virtues play out a heavenly sound so much louder and more beautiful than gongs and cymbals, and their song echoes on long after they are gone.

  3. Peter P
    on Aug 2nd at 6:48 pm

    That’s an awesome post, Jen.

    I love the whole gravestone thing.
    “In loving memory of Mother. She was thin.” Hilarious but so true!

  4. Deb Watson
    on Aug 3rd at 3:23 pm

    Jennie, Excellent Post. Peter posted the link on FB yesterday. I didn’t take the time to read it then, but kept pondering the thought “In loving memory of Mother. She was thin.” throughout the day.

    I attended the funeral of a young man, 31 years old, yesterday morning, and then before I went to bed, I received news of a tragic death in our community– a young mom, leaving behind three young sons and a husband.

    When it is all said and done – what will we be remembered for? Are we making a difference?

    I will probably attend more funerals – but will I grasp that the final outcomes might be different if I exercise holy boldness now and share my faith and knowledge that rests on the hope of eternal life that is promised, that which Paul speaks of in Titus 1:1-2.

    Thanks for the humorous reminder that God has now used to challenge me


    • newsong40
      on Aug 3rd at 3:32 pm

      Thanks Deb. So sorry to hear about those two early deaths.
      Just had a quick look at your website, too, and see that you’re no stranger to tragedy yourself. It’s so inspiring to read your testimony of God’s very real presence in the darkest moments.
      Thanks for stopping by, and for your encouraging words.


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