In the story of Jesus’ life and ministry, it seems as though Jesus has only recruited his disciples when he begins preparing them for his death. Not really much of a honeymoon period for these disciples. The rabbi they’ve devoted their lives to following is quickly preparing them to carry on his legacy. Jesus speaks very openly and plainly about his departure. Perhaps that’s an example we can learn from.
Pastoral ministry has exposed me to the gamut of human emotion. Joy at the time of a birth. Fear at the loss of a job. Confusion and angst at the diagnosing of a serious disease. Elation at the marriage ceremony. And grief at the time of death. The passing of a loved one can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting – perhaps more so than any other event in life.
A question I often ask a grieving family of their newly-diseased loved one is this: “How would they want to be remembered by the world?” And the response is almost always the same. The various members of the family look around at one another realizing they never actually discussed this before the death occurred.
Perhaps this is a valid question we should each be discussing with our families, regardless of our state of health or our perceived distance from death. How do we want to be remembered? This was such an important matter for Jesus he discussed it regularly with his followers.
The topic of death and dying is something a great number of folk actively avoid. These conversations have tendency to feel awkward and uncomfortable. They can become emotional. But they also cause our gaze to focus beyond the grave. When we openly discuss the legacy we wish to leave behind we are bringing our loved ones into a level of intimacy and closeness like none other.
How do you want to be remembered when your time comes?
Having these difficult conversations won’t remove the sting of grief when death comes. But they will increase feelings of hope and encouragement. The bereaved will begin to think about carrying on the legacy of the diseased. They will more easily find a sense of purpose amid the seemingly hopeless feelings of despair and sadness.
We make a promise – a covenant – in our baptisms to walk with Jesus in thought word and deed. Perhaps we too, then, should remember the challenging yet significant task of preparing ourselves and our families for the next stage of life – life beyond this one.