Last weekend, I took a stroll with some of my dearest family members. We spent time together beneath the shade of hundred year old oak trees, soaking in the silence of a place filled with memories and love. The silence of a cemetery and the memories of all the loved ones gone before me.
I stopped at the cemetery to take Mom some flowers. It’s at once a place of sadness and great love. My mother’s family is just next to my father’s, so I can walk around and see all the relatives who have gone before me. I like to walk around and see each of them, taking a moment to remember each face and fill my heart with gratitude for all the love each embodied and what each meant to me.
As I came to the headstone of a cousin, I noticed the words “I Gave Of Myself” engraved beneath his name. Wow – what defining words to have on your tombstone! So, I walked around to see what other words had been used to define a life.
– Precious daughter
– Servant of God well done
– She was the sunshine of our home
– A faithful and loving daddy
– Beloved professor
– His men loved him
– A most kind and gentle soul
– Thy life was beauty, truth, goodness and love
What are the words that define your life? Mother, daughter, sister, aunt? Happy, cheerful, loving, welcoming? Teacher, volunteer, board member, doctor, accountant? Or, words like angry, victim, sick, unworthy, incapable?
Words are powerful. The words we use to define our lives – or the ones we hear the world use – are what we live into.
My mother defined her life with the words service, faith, mother, friend, leader. These said everything about her life. How dedicated she was to her family and friends. How much she loved and cherished being a mother. How service and leadership were woven into everything she did, from serving on nearly every board in town to teaching me about leadership and service. How her faith in God underpinned it all.
When she was battling breast cancer, she was determined not to allow words like victim, sick or weak define her life. She made a point to continue living her life as much as possible throughout all the treatments, the good times and the bad. Even when she finally had to step down from her official roles, she continued to mentor and counsel others. She wouldn’t allow anyone to view her as ‘sick’, but rather as a ‘strong fighter’.
What words define your life? What would be the inscription on your tombstone? Are you defining your life with words that describe your character or your situation?
The inscriptions I saw described character, the person God created them to be. They didn’t describe circumstances, but rather the character, the essence of the person. There is an action and impact in these defining words. Each of those people touched another life and impacted someone for the better. You see that in these final inscriptions.
Define your life by how you impact the world, not how the world impacts you.
So, what are your words? What are the words that will describe your impact in this world? Will you join with me and share your defining words? Let’s set our words before us and then live into them!
The words I want to live into are: “Faithful servant, loving mother”.