Recently, I had the sad honor of attending a memorial service for a dear friend’s father who passed away quite unexpectedly. I listened as several people shared their memories of Fred, some funny, some touching, but all laced with the sorrow of his absence. It is a tragic irony of such events that the more beloved and accomplished the person is, the deeper the sense of loss and grief. It struck me that most of us are striving to live life in such a way as to make many people, whom we love, miserable when we are gone. The only thing worse than a funeral for someone for whom everyone is grieving is a funeral for someone for whom no one is mourning.

My friend’s dad was, fortunately, not such a person. There were many tears from the large crowd who gathered to comfort his family and celebrate his life. There was beautiful singing and a truth-filled homily declaring faith in life after death and the hope of resurrection. And then . . .  it was over. We wiped away our tears and hugged one last time. Some of us gathered for a meal and caught up on life. Then we drove home and did chores, walked our dogs and spent time with our families. Of course, the grieving process is not over and for his family and close friends. It never will be, at least this side of heaven. He will be missed at each family event, talked about among those who didn’t have the privilege of knowing him. But as those who had that privilege slip away, so will their memories. So it will be for each of us. One day in the future our lives, however long, will be reduced to an obituary and an afternoon service.

There are, of course, a select few whose lives take on historic relevance, but they are few and far between. Most of us will not be a world leader, a great inventor or the writer of a timeless classic. Even these figures aren’t really remembered as people but more by their accomplishments. Their deeds and works live on in our memories rather than in their personal impact on individual lives.

As I reflected on this truth, I realized that this is actually true for all of us. In the case of my friend’s dad, Fred, his skills will carry on every time his grandson tees up for a round of golf. His smile and kindness will echo through history in the smiles and kindness of each person whom he influenced for good. Each time his daughter stands in front of her class, his love of teaching will continue.

We each have the opportunity to live a historic life, one that ripples through time far after we are gone. Each day presents us with countless opportunities to reach beyond our eventual grave and live on through small acts of kindness or faithful service. There is no telling how you might echo through history, how loudly your life might resonate through time.

Of course, this requires one to think beyond oneself. After all, if I live a life that is primarily focused on myself, then that leaves very little behind after I am gone. While writing this post, the lyrics of the Beatles’ famous Eleanor Rigby kept playing through my mind. The namesake of this famous song which asks “all the lonely people, where do they all come from?” is buried in Liverpool’s St. Peter’s church cemetery. In the song, Eleanor is alone, touching the lives of no one, she is not mourned or missed at the end of her life. According to the gravestone of the real Eleanor, however, she was a beloved granddaughter and wife. One version of Eleanor has been enshrined as a monument to human isolation and loneliness. But the impact of the real Eleanor is quietly rippling through history in who knows how many ways. Let us strive to do the same.

One Response to “Passing Into History”

  1. Pam Bsldwin


    Love this Amy,
    I have recently recognized, probably because of my age, that as we look back and consider our impact, it may seem small. We may seem insignificant… but as a mother and grandparent and “leader”of children, our most important work may well be laying the foundational groundwork for those leaders that the world will need. Who knows what great heart will pass through our lives and make the change in the world that is so needed. In the hand of God no life is insignificant when buried in Him. God does seem to use the simple folks to confound the wise. Loved your look at this fleeting time of life and death
    And effectiveness in our everyday lives❤️


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