When We're Gone
My mom passed away on July 13, 1998, after a battle with cancer. Every year since, my dad, my two brothers and I have gathered together on the anniversary of her death at the cemetery where she’s buried in Philadelphia. It's a wonderful time of remembering this woman who meant so much to each of us. We make a day of it, taking lawn chairs and setting ourselves up in a half circle around her headstone. I’m sure it’s a strange sight to the other folks coming to the cemetery, but we don’t mind at all as we spend the day telling our favorite stories from when we were growing up. We jokingly argue over the details, each of us trying to make sure we come out as the one who was mom’s favorite. And of course we complain about “getting old”, with me always playing the trump card of being the youngest, so no matter how old we all get, I’m still going to be younger than they are.
After the reminiscing is done, we take turns sharing about our lives – talking about our families and how work is going. We finish the time by sharing what we’ve been learning about God since we last met, and then we pray together. When the talking and praying is done, we fold up our chairs and head to the local hoagie shop which my family has been patronizing since before I was born.
It’s just a great time of remembering “who” mom was, and how her life and love for God has shaped and molded each one of us. And we almost always end up asking each other, “Do you think our kids will do this at our grave when we’re gone?” It might seem sort of creepy to be discussing our own deaths like that, but if you think about it, it’s actually a very natural question to ask when you’re sitting in a cemetery surrounded by death - “What will people say about me when I’m gone?”
The truth is, it’s an even better question for us to ponder as we go through life, because what people say about us at our funerals will come directly from how we’ve lived our lives. Will people say that we were kind? That we were good athletes? That we loved our families? That we were good with our money? That we were gifted musicians? Or will they say that we lived our lives for God – fully and completely? Will people say that no matter what the situation was, they could see God in us?
If we’re Believers, our desire should be to live a life where others can clearly see God in us. Jesus drives this point home in John 17:21 when He says that the reason He wants His people to develop true community is “so that the world may believe”. In other words, we do what we do, so that the world will see us, and see what we’re doing, and in seeing what we’re doing, they will come to believe in the transformational power of the Gospel.
So the only challenge for us then is how to do that – how do we live a live so that others will know Who we love and serve? Well fortunately for us, the Bible gives us that answer as well. In Genesis 5:24, we’re told about a man named Enoch who “walked with God”. In the original Hebrew the word used for “walked” is “halak”, and it was a word used to describe an intimate, close walk between companions. It was often used to describe a mentor walking with their student – showing him the way.
This description of Enoch describes a man who is reconciled to God, who is walking where God walks, and who is looking at the world the way God does. And it's a significant story for us to understand because Enoch's life shows us the answer to how we live a life that’s pleasing to God – we spend our lives walking with Him. It’s what Enoch did in the Old Testament, it’s what countless others with powerful influence for God have done throughout the generations, it’s what my mother did which so deeply impacted our family – and it’s what we need to do as well.
So today, let’s commit to walking with God. Let’s ask God to help us follow His lead, to submit to the direction He’s taking us, and to live a life that’s reconciled to Him as our Lord and Savior. Let’s give folks something powerful to talk about at our funerals.