Every morning, while getting ready for work, I listen to a local radio station's announcements of deaths and funerals. The notices follow a pattern. The somber-voiced announcer usually begins:
"John Brown, late of 23 Blossom Way, died leaving his loving wife, Cynthia, 3 sons, 2 daughters, 10 grandchildren, other family, friends, co-workers and members of the Sacred Assembly Church..."
Although names, addresses and other details may change, the words "died leaving" are a constant refrain.
The groups of people left
I've been thinking more deeply about this notice and its reference to the persons we leave behind:
Spouse- we take different paths in the journey of finding and sharing love with another human being. Some of us are married, widowed, divorced or happily (and, in some cases, unhappily) single. The usual romantic ideal is finding that special person who loves, respects, cherishes and wants to spend time with us. The reality is some of us never find it, or we love, lose and love again...or continue the search without finding what our heart desires. Speaking as a single woman, some of us spend quite a bit of time in our alone-time wondering if, and when, we will meet the person who complements us.
Family- I'm from a very small family. Growing up, my mother, brother and I called ourselves "The Three Musketeers" or the "Three Legged Table". Although we now live in three different countries (Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados) we still remain close. I have thought about how painful it will be when the time comes that death intervenes, especially as we all get older and death seems to be around us, as I observe the tragic losses of loved ones my friends go through.
Friends- I've been blessed to have had the wonderful opportunity to have lived in Jamaica, Barbados and New Zealand and I have met people who can best be described as lights in my life, the bright sparks that add laughter, fun and love and who understand me for who I am, accept me despite my faults, listen and empathise. They are my "load-sharers": we help carry each other through rough patches.
Co-workers- We spend the bulk of our waking hours at work. And while we may not get along with a few of them a lot of the time, we do interact with our colleagues at work more than we do with some of our relatives and friends.
Church members- Christians die leaving behind their spiritual brothers and sisters, whose bonds are strong through knowing Christ and sharing him together.
As symbols, "spouse and family" represent your heart, passions and emotions. "Friends" signify leisure time/recreation, "co-workers" symbolize your mental and physical energy used to generate income, and "church members" reflect the spiritual life you experience among a community of believers. Our lives are not multi-faceted if we are lacking in any of these areas or relationships.
The most valuable thing we can leave
But if we strip it all away, the most important thing is this: that we died having known Christ and having walked in the path he laid out for us.
In Philippians Chapter 3, after recounting his religious pedigree and privileged position, Paul says in verses 7 to 11:
"...whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ...garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith inChrist...I want to know Christ...the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead."
Christians have a remarkable, supernatural assurance of life after death that non-believers do not have. We know death is not the end. Life on earth is a mere blip in the radar compared to the full magnitude of an eternity in God's presence. We have no full concept of what it will be like but we know the joy will be overwhelming. We have this confidence because of our knowledge of Christ.
Knowledge of Christ and obedience to Christ go hand in hand.
The Bible says "the one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."(1 John chapter 2 verse 4, New American Standard Bible).
God tells us which path to take. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah chapter 30 verse 21 where God says "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it'." That's a godly GPS that never needs an upgrade or an update and never malfunctions!
Knowledge and obedience manifests in a life well-lived.
What's your thing?
We all "die leaving" something.
What struck me was that none of the death notices mention the person's outstanding achievements, prizes, awards, salary, wealth, the type of house or car they had, how many assets they held or where they used to vacation. These facts ultimately don't matter in the "die leaving" scheme of things. We can have something much better if we shift the focus off material accomplishments or possessions.
Hebrews chapter 13 verse 5 says: "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"
It's said "we all die alone", but, really, God's presence is always with us. There's nothing scary about death. It just means we are away from these earthly bodies and at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 8, New Living Translation).
We all leave a legacy behind. What will yours be?
Sharma Taylor is a corporate attorney with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and a writer.
Sharma Taylor's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sharma-taylor.html