This past week, I read in another newspaper that a friend of more than 50 years had died a couple of weeks ago. We met in Atlanta when he invited me to appear on his television program. Over the years he began writing a daily devotional with his wife, Debby, and I have been distributing copies of the Word for You Today for more than a decade. Bob Gass was also a moving factor in the lives of more than 5,000 children rescued from the streets of Romania. He often attended the church at Lake Arrowhead while he and his wife lived there. He will be missed.
Death has no respect for who we are, what we have accomplished or any other factor in our lives. To be sure, the mortality rate among humans is still 100%! Each of us needs to take stock of our lives and make plans for that certainty ahead. We may not know when, but we all know we will die! In light of that prospect, each of us ought to ask what legacy we will leave our families, our communities and even our country. Here are some considerations:
The first thing that a death in the family reminds us to do is to make a will. A friend who has struggled with being the executor of a parent’s estate told me that the definition of a family is one that has not gone through probate court! Some of the most destructive arguments and the most divisive disagreements I have ever witnessed came as the result of family members who anticipated receiving some portion of an inheritance. The simplest way to make sure that your wishes are followed is to make a clear and unambiguous will.
Final services, now frequently referred to as “Celebrations of Life,” may often be expressions of our legacy in life. We have the opportunity to visit with a funeral director or a clergy person to make sure that those wishes are also followed. The question for each of us is, how do I want to be remembered? When facing death, even the hardest driving workaholic will not say, “I wish I had spent more time at the office! “ Since most of us will never know when the final moment of life is coming, now is the time to begin focusing on our living priorities.
One of the saddest moments in my counseling career occurred as I listened to a mature man shed deep sorrows and tears of remorse. After some moments, he said, “I never told my father I loved him, and now I’ll never have the chance.” His father had died in another state just a few days before our session. That leads me to a couple of suggestions for today.
First, leave with others a testimony of what you believe. Your buddies may joke that you could hold your liquor, but is that the summary you really want? Live what you believe today and others will remember it tomorrow. I recently heard a comment at a memorial service: “He listened to all my struggles and never put me down.” That friend lived acceptance.
Second, leave an investment in the lives of those who follow you. That obviously applies to your family — your spouse, children and relatives. A young man reflected on his boss, who regularly asked, “Are you gaining on your dreams? What can I do to help you fulfill them?” Each of us could use someone like that in our lives. What will those who have worked for us or close to us remember when we are gone?
The sobering — perhaps the haunting — question for today is: when life ends, how will our legacy be expressed?