“Unwavering faith,” “loved serving her church, her community and her family,” “the kindest, most caring person I’ve ever known.” These were statements spoken at a recent memorial service about a member who lost her battle with cancer during COVID. The full sanctuary was a testament to the impact she had on so many, including me.
In memorial services, I often have the privilege of sharing, for the family, reflections they have on the life of their loved one – a eulogy of sorts. When I write these, I become steeped in stories humorous and poignant, which bear witness to the ways they touched others. Invariably the process causes me to wonder what someone will say about me someday.
While I’m certain no one will say, as I’ve heard said about some saints, “she never complained” (really, who never complains?), what will my legacy be? What will family and others say about how I influenced them? Will I have made a difference in anyone’s life?
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to ask these questions no matter how far away or close to our end we think we are, because of course we know that life is fragile.
The story is told that a man once bought himself a cemetery plot and a lawn chair, and then took a week of vacation to sit on the chair at his plot. He didn’t sit there to admire the view or because he was proud of his plot; he did it because he wanted to see his life from the point of view of his death, and his death from the point of view of his life.
Whether or not you can actually sit on your plot, or where you hope your ashes will be spread, think how it might change your perspective to get into a regular practice of self-reflection. Consider how stepping back, looking at the big picture might provide fresh insights on what is going in in your life and perhaps even lead to a change in direction.
If someone looked at how you are living – how you spend your time and energy and money, what would be revealed about your priorities, and does that match what you want to be your legacy? If not, there’s no time like the present to change things.
While we can’t go back and undo bad choices and mistakes, no matter our age, we can seek forgiveness and reconciliation with those we have harmed or who have harmed us. We can choose to live less self-centeredly.
We can be less quick to judge and, rather than dismissing those who have different viewpoints, seek to see things from their point of view so as to gain understanding and maybe even compassion and empathy.
Even if you think people might not have too many glowing things to say about you, it’s never too late to change. With the help of God, whose love and grace can transform, and a supportive community of faith, you can make an impact, even if it’s only on one person.
But it might just start with taking some time to “sit on your plot.”
Rev. Christine Herrin is the senior pastor at Lowcountry Presbyterian Church in Bluffton.