I don’t normally read the obituary pages in the daily paper. But when I do, I often see a photo that catches my eye. It’s usually of a person who looks especially young to have died or who looks like someone I would have liked to know. Newspaper editors used to ask that obit photos be the most current that a family could provide, but that trend has changed. Now a 90-year-old’s obit may display him looking quite young and vital—pictured in his uniform during World War II. Because the photos aren’t necessarily current, reading the obit helps to determine the person’s age at death, as well as what the family thought their loved one should be remembered for.
This week the photo of a radiant, smiling woman named Cynthia caught my attention. Her date of birth, stated first, meant that she was only 44. The obit said that she died after a long battle with breast cancer. It read: “She showed grace and peace through it all, and will be remembered by her smiling face and spirit-filled personality. She was a devoted wife and loving mother who served other breast cancer survivors through her ‘Chemo Care Packages.’”
Cynthia lived half as long as many women today do—and suffered more than many do—but it’s clear that she made her time on earth count. I read on to discover she was a member of her active church’s choir and led Bible studies. The expression in her photo showed that she was one of those Christians who have found joy and informed their faces of it.
Obituary pages remind us that the today’s death rate—given enough years—is one out of one. It’s been said that the last place on earth a person can picture themselves is in a casket. Maybe that’s true, but I think it’s fairly easy to imagine your picture with others on the obit page of your city paper. Have you ever wondered what your family would write about you? (No, you really shouldn’t write your own.) What would the picture they use of you say to others as they glance through that page? Would anything about your face cause a total stranger to stop and read your capsulized life story?
The Bible rarely uses the word “dead” in connection with believers. Sometimes it says that our bodies “sleep” in death while our souls and spirits go immediately upon death to be with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). But Hebrews 11: 4 does use the word “dead.” It says of Abel, that “by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.”
Through what our obit says, through our works that live on after us, and through our input into the lives of our family and friends, by faith we will still speak even when we are what the world considers “dead.” I ask myself often: What will my life say?
So I’ll ask you too: What will your life say?