The “Do It Yourself” idea has made millions for industries catering to those who would rather complete a project than pay another to do it. Entire cable networks have built their programming around this craze, demonstrating how old houses can be made to look new again, how old furniture can be refurbished, and how items from the junkyard can be turned into treasures. In turn, those with the necessary skills have saved millions of dollars by doing the work to produce a satisfying end product. It is within this spirit of “DIY” that the following challenge is made: write your own obituary!
Even today, most every hometown newspaper has an obituary column. Enshrining those who have passed from this life, their family, deeds, good works, and hobbies are encapsulated in a few brief paragraphs to allow readers to know the quality of the individual. What, though, if obituary writing was taken away from newspaper journalists and the responsibility given to every individual? There is biblical precedent for such an idea! As the Apostle Paul knew his life would soon end, he wrote his obituary:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (I Timothy 4:6-8)
Paul’s reflection on his death illustrated an individual who knew what he wanted in life; thus, his final days were not spent with regret, but with anxious anticipation of what was soon to come.
Typically, the hardest part of a do it yourself project is beginning. The necessary motivation is often eclipsed by either a dread of the work at hand or the attention paid to other pursuits. As a part of the do it yourself obituary, the first step is to take time and contemplate what accomplishments are desired in this life. A nurse who spent her life working in the field of palliative care recorded the biggest regrets her patients voiced as their lives were coming to a close. In her anecdotal observations, she found that every male patient expressed the same regret, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” As these men looked back on their lives, they realized that pursuing a career had devoured time which could and should have been devoted to family and other good works. The Lord recognized this as a great temptation, admonishing in his parable of the soils that “what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). Thus, as the “do it yourselfer” begins writing, he must determine how he wants to be remembered. Will his obituary state that he was a devoted family man, good father, and good husband, or will it state that he was an invaluable asset to the company for whom he worked? Will it state he was a selfless worker in the Lord’s service or will it state he was a tireless worker for his employer?
Perhaps the second hardest part of the do it yourself project is finding satisfaction with the end result. Often, the DIY enthusiasts will state “I should have done this” or “I should have done that.” What about with the final lines of the obituary? Note once again how the Apostle Paul concluded his obituary; it was not with regret, but with anticipation. He was not a perfect man in any way; in fact, he stated that he was “chief among sinners.” He, however, knew the grace of God and knew the absolute necessity of “working out one’s own salvation.” Thus, he always had the finish line in mind and raced accordingly. The DIY obituary writer must make a choice; does he desire to be remembered as the man who left his family financially well-off or the man who laid the foundation for a spiritual house? Does he desire to be remembered as the veteran employee whose portrait will hang on the wall for years to come or the Christian whose portrait adorns the hearts of his brethren? Does he desire to have his name engraved in earthly memorials or does he desire his name to be recorded in the Lamb’s book of life?
Filling In The Middle
The hard labor of any project is what occurs between beginning and end; the same is true with life. What, then, is the purpose of writing one’s own obituary? It is to live in such a manner that will lead to the desired conclusion. Writing an obituary before the closing days of life provides opportunity to evaluate the direction one’s life is going. It gives the young man working his way up the corporate ladder opportunity to pause and reconsider his family obligations: “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25). It gives the young woman opportunity to reflect on her God-given duties within the family: “And so train younger women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:5). It provides opportunity for every Christian to examine his or her lifestyle and determine if the Lord is a part of that life or if the Lord IS life: “And when Christ, who is your life, appears…” (Colossians 3:4). The priorities established “before the evil days come” will certainly determine the outcome.
Death is not a subject that most desire to contemplate and mortality is often an avoided idea. The realist, however, fully understands that the day of departure is coming: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The DIY obituary writer, with full realization that death is coming, gets busy! As the Apostle Paul, actions are taken to produce the hope and security that a victor’s crown is waiting. May every child of God take to heart and live every day in anticipation of meeting the Lord. May every obituary written by the faithful come to its desired and glorious conclusion – a life lived for God.
By Greg Chandler