10 things I learned in the house of mourning
Over the years, I have attended quite a few memorial services. It has been eleven years since my own son Christopher’s service. I have mourned the loss of my mother, and then my father. One of my closest friends lost her husband suddenly last year. Only months later, we tragically lost one of our pastors by suicide. Needless to say, these losses have deeply affected me.
It is predictable that the more we age, the more we will experience the ultimate loss of loved ones. Those no longer with us are never forgotten. I need only think back to the day of my son’s death and my priorities and trials are brought back into sharp focus.
I have learned more from attending one memorial service than I’ve learned at a thousand parties.
Scripture teaches that, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). In the house of feasting, we’re too distracted with having a good time to consider how our lives will matter in the end.
I want to be wise and reflect on who I am. Who will tell my story? Will it be a good one? Will my life matter? I’m so grateful for lives that began, continued, and ultimately finished in beauty and honor.
Death has much to teach us. It is a sermon. I want to listen and learn.
Recently, I went to “a house of mourning” and after leaving, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen and heard. It affected me deeply, caused me to reflect honestly about my own legacy.
Brenda was a wife, a mother, a devout Christian, and a servant. These are things I already knew and respected about Brenda, but there were beautiful details of how she lived and loved and served Jesus even outside the big doors of our church. In every part of life, she successfully left an indelible impact on her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends and co-workers.
I would like to share what I’ve learned.
- A great legacy is made of more than a few big moments. It’s in thousands of “in-between” moments, where small decisions and choices are made, that will tell the final story.
- The value of what we leave behind is in the people we have loved, lived with, and raised. When the story is told it will continue to speak loudly, motivating and convicting to those who are blessed to hear.
- I saw in Brenda’s life, that love is costly. It is sacrifice. It is painful at times. But for love’s sake it never gives up.
- The core values of our life must start with a deep love and commitment to follow Christ sacrificially. It begins there, and that central issue must be kept and maintained above ALL competing priorities.
- Those who stand on stages or have a microphone don’t necessarily have the greatest impact. It is often the quiet discipline of a godly life, lived well, that makes a lasting impression.
- Knowing the Word of God is essential. This is the central guiding, guarding, stabilizing force behind a blessed life.
- Strength of character is not demonstrated in the volume of our voice, but in the influence of a meek and quiet spirit that is unwilling to compromise what is right for what is expedient.
- We teach best when we teach, not merely with words but with our example. How important it is to live a balanced, well-rounded life! It is represented by all we are and all we do.
- Prayer is powerful. It changes others and it changes us.
- Love is stronger than death. It endures forever, even when death separates.
Every funeral is different and yet the same. A service may be organized in a variety of ways with music and memories and a message, but all funerals share one fact in common: the person that everyone is present for is gone. Their life has been lived and there is no coming back.
For us, the living, there is time to reflect and take these lessons to heart. When the time comes, others will plan our memorial but we are weaving the fabric for that now. What legacy will we leave?
So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12