I wrote my own obituary a few years ago (by the way, I live to be 100!). It was part of the “homework” for a book that I was reading at the time. I know it sounds a bit morbid. However, it does make one think about life and death. Yet, the written obituary isn’t the only obituary we have in life.
There are really two obituaries in life. The first is the written one we are so well acquainted with and read in the newspapers. The other one is hidden, yet much more important. This obituary is written on the hearts of those we interact with each day.
The first obituary is written as a summary of your life in a few paragraphs. It entails the dates and locations of birth and death. It contains the names of the most important people in your life, such as your spouse and kids. Education, workplace, and a few things you enjoyed are next. Finally, there is a list of your surviving relatives. That’s it. It’s a concise written account of your life distilled into a few paragraphs.
With a little research, a basic obituary can be pulled together quite quickly. The tragic part about a written obituary is once it’s written, it’s read, and then it’s discarded. It’s filed by a close few and placed in the trash by most. Sadly, tomorrow, there is a whole new batch of obituaries. And the day after that, yet more again. It seems the written obituary strikes a chord with the words of the wise teacher of old, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV)
Thankfully, the second type of obituary is filled with much more hope. It is written a little bit each and every day we walk this earth. Each word and action is recorded onto the hearts of those around you. As a pastor and hospice chaplain I’ve been at many bedsides of dying people. I see this second obituary rise to the surface in those times. Very seldom do I hear about a person’s career in those conversations. I do hear alot about memorable family vacations, funny incidents at home, character observed and life lessons the dying person taught them.
Our spouse, our children, our friends and even some close co-workers are all a portion of this second type of obituary. The apostle Paul writes, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (NIV)
This second obituary is not written on paper, but as the apostle Paul mentions it is written on “human hearts”. This second obituary will be read and re-read by many people for years after your death. This second obituary can impact your family tree for generations. This second obituary is very much worth spending a lot of intentional effort in writing.
What will be written about you in a short newspaper clip at the end of your life really doesn’t matter much. What you are writing today on the “tablets of human hearts” around you matters immensely. May the Lord guide us all in writing well.