Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The Obits, Greensboro, NC

I’ve reached that stage of life where the obituaries catch my eye occasionally as I read the morning’s newspaper. A snowy winter’s day can provide such an occasion. I don’t have the slightest idea who the majority of these people are who gaze at me from the black and white thin veil, but how the sum total of their lives is described provides some kind of fascinating curiosity. On those occasions, I like to scan each article of those who have gone before me and keep a mental note of how the writer described the departed’s departure. It is mostly written that a person simply died. Sometimes, the exit is peacefully in sleep. That’s probably the best way. Interestingly and not so often, it’s written that they go to be with the Lord or go to their glory home. And other times, they just pass away or depart this life. I’m not at all sure why all these different exit strategies are used for the same common destiny of all mankind, except for the slight variety in the daily routine that it offers the journalist who has been assigned the task of writing all these very brief overviews of a life.

In the final analysis, how our lives are summarized in the daily paper is only a brief news item. And there is that rare occasion where the writer records an intimate and sometimes humorous observation like the one shared by a colleague; “One of my all time favorites was the one in which the gentleman who died was described as ‘...could be a pain in the ass just like the rest of us...’" No one can summarize a life in such short space, not even in an autobiography where the words are carefully chosen and I suspect the truth is gently stretched. It’s the voluminous entries in the Book of Life that matter. It’s the fast forward video that is reported by those who see their lives rapidly passing before them just as they are being resuscitated from almost certain death. It’s about how we ultimately lived life and how we conducted ourselves. It’s about how we genuinely asked for forgiveness and received God’s priceless grace in response when we didn’t act as we knew we should have in a given instance. It’s about how we loved and lived as best we could in a broken world. It’s about how we dealt with others, especially the unlovable in this world. It’s about how we loved and forgave ourselves in light of our humanness.

I’ve always liked the story of a man’s response when asked how he’d like to exit the world. He remarked that he’d like to die peacefully in his sleep like his grandfather—not like the others in his grandfather’s car who were hysterically screaming and yelling.

Aspire to inspire before you expire.

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