And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment. Hebrews 9:27 NLT
I walked to the casket and sheepishly peered in.
Nothing was out of the ordinary about this funeral visitation. In the South, it’s the way we do it—most of the time. A death occurs. The family makes arrangements for their loved one. Visitation happens the night before the funeral or just prior to. Following the funeral, the body—or ashes, is taken to the cemetery for burial.
I was in the visitation line, a line that snaked around corners and through several rooms. As I got closer to the casket, I could see family members greeting friends and acquaintances. I supposed this person must have been special…must have influenced countless people…must have touched numerous lives. Perhaps he was famous. Some family members had trouble composing themselves. Others smiled as they hugged and shook hands.
As the line shortened, I heard bits and pieces of conversations. “He sure does look good.” (How can a person who is dead look good?) “I’m sure sorry for your loss.” Normal things people utter when they try to comfort someone—when they really have no idea what to say.
Then it came my turn to step forward. But something was strange about the family members—something was strange about the person in the casket. As things evolved into focus, I noticed they were my children and grandchildren. My spouse stood beside them, and I was in the casket.
It had happened. Just as the biblical writer said. I had done what every human being must do: die. But I must have done lots of good things along my life’s journey because masses of people were here to comfort my family, share stories, and tell how I had touched their lives. I wondered what I had done. I wished I had been able to stand by them as those in the line passed by so I could have heard their remarks.
Life is short, and death is certain. Two of the points in the first funeral sermon I delivered 28 years ago. Points that are still true and will remain valid when I deliver my final funeral sermon. And since death is certain—and since every funeral reminds me of this, I stop often to consider my life goals, aspiration, and priorities. And also what type of influence I’m having on others.
What difference is death’s certainty having in your life?
Prayer: Father, remind us that we must die and give an account of our lives to You. May we live in light of that each day.