Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Epitaph

The older one gets, the more aware one becomes of the brevity of life, especially if one has lost a number of close relatives to death.

My maternal grandfather and my father both died at age 65. All of my grandparents are dead. Both of my paternal aunts are dead. One of my cousins (who was roughly my own age) is now dead, as is his father. There may be others I'm not aware of.

My father probably could have lived a lot longer than he lived, if it hadn't been for his self-destructive drinking habit. On the flip side, he had a lot more financial resources than I, so he could afford better medical care. Also, I honestly don't think his life was as stressful as my own life has been. It's hard to say how likely it is that I'll die at a comparable age. But it certainly seems like a possibility which I can't completely ignore.

If one assumes that my lifespan will be comparable to that of my father and my maternal grandfather, then I have about 15 more years to go. Of course, there's no way to know if things will actually happen that way. Perhaps I'll live to be 100. Or I could die tomorrow in a freak accident. One never knows. But it can't hurt to be prepared.

Some people prepare Last Will and Testament documents as a means of preparing for that day. The primary reason is to specify how their assets should be divided after they've died. I'd probably do that, if I had any significant assets to leave to my family. But I really don't have a lot of assets to leave to anyone. Plus, I have no wife or children to leave anything to. The likelihood that I'll die before my mother dies seems slim. The only family member who seems likely to be a beneficiary after I die is my younger brother. Overall, things like life insurance or a Last Will and Testament aren't a very high priority for me at this time. But that doesn't mean I haven't given some thought to preparing for my own demise.

Yesterday, I visited a web site where they had chronicled some interesting epitaphs found on various people's gravestones. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to write one for myself. I thought I'd share it with you.

My Epitaph
© Mark Pettigrew

Here lies the body of Mark Pettigrew.
Grateful that his tribulation is through,
he now resides in a much better place,
thanks to the gift of God’s marvelous grace.

When he was young, he made Jesus his Lord
so that his innocence could be restored.
Angels rejoiced when he called on God’s name,
knowing his life would ne’er more be the same.

As you stand reading this brief epitaph,
here is a question to ponder, my friend:
Will you be wheat, or will you be chaff
when at long last your own life’s at an end?

I figure that if I'm going to have an epitaph of some kind, why not do something good with it? The preceding epitaph might even be instrumental in helping to persuade someone to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

I guess some folks would think that it's morbid for me to write a poem focusing on my own future death. But when you think about it, the text on most folks' tombstones is written by whoever survives them. Rather than run the risk that the text on my tombstone would poorly represent my values and my life, I'd rather take a small measure of control over the matter.

Of course, the only way to do that would be for me to create a Last Will & Testament, if for no other reason than to specify that the above poem was to be engraved in my tombstone (possibly accompanied by a nice photo of myself). That would only be effective to the extent that there was some kind of financial incentive for people to follow my wishes, unless of course my survivors (or friends of mine) just chose to honor my wishes because it was the right thing to do.

Trusting that folks will do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing sometimes seems a bit naive to me. People often choose not to do the right thing. Nevertheless, I'd like to think that my survivors won't ignore my wishes. I'd hate to end up with an epitaph like the one found on the tombstone of one John Gray:
Poor John Gray, here he lies,
No one laughs, and no one cries,
Where he's gone, and how he fares,
No one knows, and no one cares.


NOTE: To download additional Christ-centered poems I've written (stored online in the form of PDF files which can be downloaded from a public SkyDrive folder), visit this link, then select the poem in which you have an interest, and then click the Download button.

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