I along with you probably know folks that have died in the past couple of years.
Grandma’s, grandpas, uncles and aunts lie still in the ground marked by stones. They’ve all gone on to their destinies. All that’s left is a little dust they used to live in and some chiseled names and dates that remind us that they-like us-used to walk and work and wonder and dream.
They had plans and schedules, bills and bank accounts; they laughed and cried; they fought with each other and played together. And, like us, they were watched and followed. Little sets of eyes studied how they treated people-and drew conclusions from what they saw. Sensitive ears listened to their words-and drew conclusions from what they heard. Impressionable minds observed these people from the shadows, sensing the true spirit of their convictions-and drew conclusions from what they felt.
Below the names on these tombstones are epitaphs, marble and granite phrases that try to say in a handful of words what a person’s life said over many years.
Tim Kimmel, in his book Legacy of Love, puts it best, “True epitaphs are not carved in stone. They are carved in the souls and memories of men and women, boys and girls. Regardless of what my ancestor’s tombstones say, the words can never overwrite what those individuals were. That’s why God leaves the last word on our life to those we leave behind.”
Maybe that is why I come out to the quiet cemetery. It’s not some morbid preoccupation with the past. It’s perspective. It’s a reminder to me that I, too, am going to get my turn at being a memory…that I am writing my epitaph now, on the hearts of my children. They will sum up my life someday. And that sum total will have a deep and abiding effect on the lives that they end up leading.
So how are you doing writing your epitaph? We don’t watch over the dead. Instead we are stewards of the living.
Someday we will stand before the God who purchased our eternal souls with a deep price.
Now we are leaving a legacy. Then we will give an account. Between now and then is all the time we have left.
Find me faithful Lord, I pray.