Tombstones and Other Happy Things

Okay, so…first of all…this blog is not going to just be about grief and death and dying.  But, you have to remember that less than 6 weeks ago I stood by the bed of the absolute love of my life as he entered eternity.  So…it’s sort of coloring the things I do.  I guess in a non-morbid way (if there is such), you could say I am looking at the world through death-colored glasses!

Which leads me to today’s post.  I’ll bet I did something on Friday that few of you out there have done.  I purchased my own tombstone.  Of course it was called something much more politically correct -bronze marker I think was the actual term.  The definition of tombstone, though, is “a marker placed at the head of a grave,” so I’m staying with tombstone.

Anyway, of course I had to purchase this for Keith’s grave, and since I will be buried at the same place, the thing to do was to go ahead and put my name on it. This has been in the works for some time, but on Friday I received the email “mock up” of it.  There it was…my name with my birth date, a dash, and then a blank.  Keith’s was filled in with the appropriate dates.

I’ve thought about that a lot over the weekend.  I understand that I am living in the dash now.  I wonder how it would be if I already knew the date that will one day be etched on that marker.  God in His graciousness doesn’t give us that info. What if it said next week?  What would I do?  Or…what if it said 30 years from now?  Would I then sit back comforted by the knowledge that I had lots of time, and do nothing?

Keith found out in March that more than likely his cancer was terminal.  However at the time we were told that he probably had two years.  During that time there were a couple of versions of songs that were popular entitled, “Live Like You Were Dying.”  Of course this called for a good bit of introspection and lively conversation between Keith and I.  Here’s the interesting thing.  Keith didn’t want to do anything differently, even with the knowledge that he was dying.  And the only thing on his “bucket list” that he didn’t get to do was to go to another Alabama football game with dinner at Dreamland Ribs.  Something tells me that if God doesn’t have him too busy doing eternal things, Keith will be watching from the 50 yard line this season!  The point is that even before he found out that he was dying, he was living in such a way that he could leave at any time with no regrets.

He was also comfortable with the idea of death.  After we found out that he only had a few weeks to live, I asked him, “Are you scared?”  He said, “No, I am not afraid of death.  But I am a little nervous about the process of moving from here to there.”  I wonder everyday what he is seeing and what he is doing.  Whatever it is, I know that there is no way that my earthly brain could comprehend it, so I’ll just wait…until it’s time for that date to be etched on my tombstone.

So, for today, don’t live like you are dying.  Living like you are dying implies that you should be doing things to satisfy selfish ambitions.  Here’s the thing…you are dying.  (I know…leave it to me to point out something really cheery on a Monday morning!) Death is not optional. There are, however, lots of things to be done during the “dash” time – the time between the birth and death dates.

Your legacy will be in the people and lives that you touch.  Not in the tombstone.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
Ephesians 5:1-2; 15-16

Blessings, my friends!

The Religion of Your Childhood

Okay, so…being a new widow, I have been receiving a lot of booklets, books and cards in the mail.  Most all of them come from people and/or organizations that are part of my Christian heritage.  Well, today I received one that really captured my attention and really caused me to think most of the day.

This booklet came from one of the life insurance policies that Keith had.  This was from a well known company and they have processed the claim very quickly.  And they sent me a booklet.  Please know that I am not in any way being critical of this company for trying to provide a resource for families.  However, as I thumbed through the booklet, I realized the emptiness of the people that they used as case studies.  The overwhelming grief from these people was staggering, and yet the quotes in the book that were there to provide comfort came from authors such as Kahlil Gibran, Abraham Lincoln, Longfellow, and Max Ehrmann.

Because my life is so saturated with Christian influence, and my walk with Christ is so real to me, this was my first experience with what I would call “secular” writings on dealing with death and grief.  I have to tell you, I closed the book with overwhelming sadness for people who have only writings such as this as their hope.

In the chapter entitled, “Caring for Yourself,” the author discusses ways to identify what you are feeling, and then offers suggestions for developing a caring plan for yourself.  There is a list of nine things that she offers as helpful activities that you can do in your caring plan.  The number nine thing that she lists, almost as an afterthought, is “Revisit the religion of your childhood.”

Of all the things I read in this book, this one seemed the saddest…that at the point of one of the worst moments in their lives, these dear ones are having to be told to go back to something that it is automatically assumed that they left along with dolls and building blocks…the religion of their childhood.

I closed the book, raised my hands toward heaven and thanked God that my relationship with Him is fresh and new daily.  I thanked Him for sustaining me during the past weeks and walking beside me and comforting me through EVERY situation that arose.  Yes, He is the God of my childhood, but praise God that when I needed Him the most the relationship was there, and strong.

The point for today is that if you have left the religion of your childhood, don’t go back looking for it.  Instead, breathe a prayer to the Living God, trust His Son, and know that His strength and comfort will infuse you and empower you no matter what you are facing.

Blessings, my friends!