Three year olds are known for their cute, quirky pronouncements. But my three year old recently "took the cake" with a statement that came completely out of the blue, and totally unsolicited. While sitting on the kitchen floor and reassembling our kitchen cupboard for the twelfth time, Haley said; "Daddy, you are beautiful and brave." All week long I have been pumping myself up with the very same phrase - when meetings go long, when financial statements get lengthy, I say to myself - "Daddy, you are beautiful and brave." In fact, I like the phrase so much that I am requesting that it be put on my gravestone someday; "Pastor, father, husband, friend...he was beautiful and brave."
Not that I am thinking about gravestones much, or morbidity in general. I love life!!! But as I have been thinking about it, I have been pondering how it is actually not a bad idea for all of us to take a few moments every now and then, and think about what words we would like to have said about us, when we die, to think about what sentiments we would like to leave the world with, when we go, to think about what we would like it to say...on our gravestones.
I am told that Willow Creek recently did a staff retreat in which they asked all of the staff members to take huge pieces of construction paper, and to design their own gravestones. They asked each staff member to write the words that they would like to be remembered by on large pieces of paper that were later put up on the wall, and reflected deeply upon. (BTW: this exercise definitely lends itself to lots of dark comedy material...as in, and then the whole staff were fired, and then they served up the cool aide...and it is not recommended as a staff retreat exercise unless you have the leadership ability of a Bill Hybels to pull it off, and even then I'm not sure...). Later comments about the retreat were that it was the most meaningful time they ever spent together as a team. And from that moment on, they all Rested in Peace (just kidding).
Church yards and cemeteries around the world are filled with the markers of great and lowly people alike, and tombstones that are equally great and lowly. Here are some famous epitaphs that I like. William Butler Yeats, the great Irish poet, had as his epitaph; "Cast a cold eye, on life, on death, horsemen pass by." BP Roberts' epitaph was more humorous, simply, "I told you I was sick." Merv Griffin's epitaph reads like a punch line to a joke; "Merv Griffin, I will not return after this message." Billy Wilder's is more narrative; "Here Lies a Writer, But Then Again, Nobody's Perfect." The troops who lost their lives in Burma left an epitaph that reminds us to be thankful; "When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today".
What is it that you most want to be remembered for in the short life that God has given you to live? What one thing, or things, or causes, do you want it said of you, "that's what she/he stood for?" What would you like your life to have meant, when all is said and done. Don't bathe yourself in these questions, but at least ask them of yourself for one mili-second today.
For me, I am still working on the answer to that question. But whatever I come up with, it will be hard to beat - "He Was Beautiful and Brave", from the lips of a three year old.
All For Now,