Not that long ago I officiated a funeral of an older man in our church. His death was sudden but not unexpected. Officiating a funeral is always an honor. It’s hard to put into words the experience of having a front row seat to a families grief during such a vulnerable time. You get a glimpse into their life in a way most people don’t.
But while it’s an honor, it’s also terrifying. The death of a loved one is one of the most significant moments in a person’s life to which a pastor has unique access. And during the service it’s the role of the pastor to honor the deceased, be a conduit for comfort from God and some how authentically extend hope that this is not the end. It’s a weighty task.
And not only that, it’s also scary cause you only get one shot. It’s not like preaching a sermon. If you have a bad Sunday you can easily shake it off. Your next opportunity is only a week away. If you blow a funeral you don’t get a second chance.
While working with a family in a season of loss, there’s something overwhelming about death that causes you to reevaluate your life and priorities. In our youth we live with the impression we are immortal. Death seems so far off. But the older we get and more we see of life, we realize how susceptible we really are no matter our age.
When confronted with the brevity of life I’m also reminded, just like with a funeral, we only get one shot at it.
Whenever I get stuck working on a message for a funeral, I often find myself wondering, “What will people say of me when I die?” Will they say, “He was a good man; a family man – a devoted husband and caring father?” Will they speak to the importance and impact of my vocation and work? Will they say I had conviction about my faith and lived a selfless life?
Ultimately, the question is what kind of legacy will I leave?
In wrestling through putting words on a page to describe someone else’s life, I’m reminded in order for those things to be said of my life, they actually have to be true. There has to be consistent visible evidence.
And what’s scary about it, is we have no idea how many days we actually have left. In the last few weeks alone I’ve read stories in the news of two people my age and a child 5 years old who all lost their life to cancer. You just never know when your time will come.
All too often, we put our head on the pillow at night assuming we’ll have another day. But the truth is, there’s no guarantee. Assuming we have another week, month or year, can lead us to squander the moments we do have with our family, friends and faith community right here, right now.
Which means in this moment, you have an opportunity to be adding to the legacy you will leave behind. The question is what will that legacy be? How can you leverage what you do have today knowing tomorrow isn’t guaranteed?