How alive are you? Tomorrow I have the privilege of doing a memorial service for one of my closest friends. Although I know he is in heaven, his death has made me sad. I will miss his faithful partnership–together we served among the poorest of the poor in places like India, Thailand, and Mexico. But even more, his death has made me reflective. It has renewed again in me an “evaluative spirit” which measures the heft and zest of the life I live.
Funerals, at their best, can do that. They should raise hard yet critical questions in our souls and minds.
- What is my life about?
- How am I treating people?
- Who is important to me?
- Where have I become too caught up in the unimportant patterns of this world?
- What is really of value to me?
- What will my own funeral be like? What will they say about me?
- Am I a light to others, offering hope and warmth, or more decorative–like a flowering plant in a cubicle or a smartly dressed window manikin?
Honestly, am I just alive, or really living “life to the full”?
A modern country song enjoins us to the value to “Live Like You Were Dying.” Reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Letters and Papers from Prison, I find a similar reflection. He has been caught in the struggle against Adolph Hitler, and now reflects on how his world has constrained, challenged, and molded him. He writes,
“We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds. We have become cunning and learned the arts of obfuscation and equivocal speech. Experience has rendered us suspicious of human beings, and often we have failed to speak to them a true and open word. Unbearable conflicts have worn us down or even made us cynical. Are we still of any use? We will not need geniuses, cynics, people who have contempt for others, or cunning tacticians, but simple, uncomplicated, and honest human beings. Will our inner strength to resist what has been forced on us have remained strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves blunt enough, to find our way back to simplicity and honesty?”
Lord, teach us about ourselves. When people we know die, bring on valuable times of self-reflection and spiritual renewal. Help us live like we were dying. Make us simple, uncomplicated, honest human beings. Amen.