Writing Your Five-Word Eulogy
What kind of relationships surround you?
Every time I attend a funeral, I end up thinking the same thought sometime during the service: I wonder what people will be saying about me at my funeral. It’s an unavoidable consideration whenever we are forced to face our mortality. The way we celebrate the end of life tells us a great deal about what we ultimately, truly value in the course of life. I have yet to attend a funeral where family and friends spoke primarily about the deceased’s stock portfolios, strategic plan goals, material possessions, or other so called ‘life accomplishments’. Instead, the theme is almost always the quality of the relationships that were left behind.
The setting of a given funeral will tell you a lot about the way the deceased lived. I have been to the funeral of very humble people with little means and no great life accomplishments in large churches with standing room only. And I have attended funerals of some wealthy and powerful people whose mourners could scarcely fill five pews. The reason for both was the value of the relationships they left behind.
Jesus’ description of the final judgment from Matthew 25 always unnerves me. I know its familiar, but read it again, carefully.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance—the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34–40).
Jesus places the greatest value on activities that can too often be afforded the least amount of time and priority. If you ever wondered how seriously Jesus takes relationships, look no further than Matthew 25. It is a stunning reminder that the way we truly love our neighbor, give ourselves to serve those around us in need, and value our relationships as ends and not means all have eternal consequences.
What kinds of relationships surround you? How would your peers describe your relationship with them? How would your employees describe your relationships with them? How would your closest friend describe your relationship?
Write down your answer to this question: “How would you most want people in your life to describe your relationship with them?” Come up with five one-word descriptions of the real substance of the relationships for which you would most like to be remembered – your five-word eulogy if you will.
Now here’s the tough part, find three of your coworkers, family members or reliable friends and ask them to write down five words that best describe their relationship with you and how they experience you in relationship. Then compare their lists to yours. If you can, discuss the two sets of lists and listen to them as they talk about how they encounter you in relationship and also how they react to your own list. Lastly, read the text from Matthew 25 again, look at your own list, and ask for God’s guidance in answering the question in this manner: “Lord, help me create the relationships around me that breathe life into these words and result in a life of service to others like you talked about in Matthew 25.”