About 250,000 people die, every single day. In comparison, it would be like the city of Seattle disappearing in roughly two days, or the entire country of Luxembourg.
So far this year, 25,000,000 people have passed away, and it is only June. This would be like Mexico City becoming non-existent in half a year.
In a year’s time, 50,000,000 people die–just above the current population of South Korea and Spain!*
So, in an eerie and strange way, death is incredibly common. By the time you read to this point, 350 on earth will have died.
Yet death grips us, with its cold hand as we look upon loved ones who pass on–there will always be tears, unanswered questions, and lasting, incessant pain in the sight of death.It has been almost two years since my grandmother passed away, yet I will never forget her funeral.
It was an awful day to be quite frank, it was one of the hottest days I have ever lived through in Seattle, and I was sweating profusely under my nice shirt and tie. Yet I was not the only one, there must have been about 200 of us standing there, under the blazing heat with various black dresses and suit jackets and ties. Everyone was quietly looking on as a word was said about my grandma, and their eyes constantly glanced onto the shined black coffin.
I stayed a little ways away from the crowd, under a nearby shady tree, talking to one of the workers at the Funeral Home. He seemed extremely shocked by the amount of people that had come to the burial.
“How many people usually come to these?” I asked him. He wiped the sweat off of his forehead and replied:
“Thirty or forty, max.”
“Have you ever seen this big a group?” I asked again.
“No, this has got to be the biggest group I have ever seen at this funeral home,” he replied and we stood in silence for awhile. “Who is it that has passed? Some politician?”
I laughed, the question seemed so ironic. “She was a mother of four, a housewife, and to me–my grandmother.”
“Really?” he was visibly stunned. “I was inside and I heard a lot of people say some amazing things about your grandmother. I guess I am just shocked to see so many people here to grieve a…”
“A simple mother?” I injected.
“To put it bluntly, yes,” he looked over at me, “What makes her so special to everyone here?”
“She loved people.”
My grandma was the most simple of people there was, she was the epitome, to me, of humility. She was always interested in people and always deeply concerned for the needs of those around her. Yet she never held a job, she was never into politics, she never had money to throw around, and her personality was anything but forward. In her quietness, she made herself loved by her ability to constantly be a great listener that was genuinely interested in the lives of everyone and anyone.
The memorial service for my grandmother is another memory I cannot forget. A small church, where my grandmother attended, was absolutely packed out for her memorial service–one person estimated that there were close to 1,000 people there, later on that hot, sweltering day. The auditorium was only made for 200 some people, but somehow a lot more people were stuffed into it–so much so that I found out many people had to wait downstairs for the program to be over.
During the memorial service, dozens of people stood up to share their appreciation for my grandmother, expressing the stories they had of her constant encouraging and how she had built them up.
She truly left a legacy.
The reason this memory came back to me, was because of a memorial service I attended this weekend for a woman I am barely related to. This woman passed away at 102 and at the service I did not recognize even half of the multitude of people this woman had touched with her life.
She was no politician, she had never really held a job, and never had too much money. She was a mother, a grandmother, a friend, and a neighbor to most of the people there. Yet the stories shared about this great woman depicted her as an extremely caring and giving person–a very strong woman with a tender heart.
Is it not ironic?
Emily Dickinson died with little fame and was buried without magnificent accolades, Edgar Allan Poe died a sad death at young age. Genghis Khan was buried in an unmarked grave, and Adolf Hitler died in a German bunker. Yet these people changed the world, in their own ways. Dickinson and Poe forever changed the world of poetry and writing, and the names of Kahn and Adolf will always evoke fear in the people’s of the world.
Yet the men who held the world at the point of a sword, were killed by it and became unnamed graves (Kahn) and viciously infamous (Adolf). What was their legacy? What good did they bring into the world?
Yet as I recall the last two memorials I have been to, both of great women, it is ironic that they should get such respect and love from those that they touched. Why? Because they loved people.
Loving people is like buying the perfect stock that forever multiplies and makes one unfathomably rich, in the long run. People last forever, and relationships are the most precious thing we can own as people–not only with other people, but most specifically with God himself.
The two women I shared about were women who left great legacy’s, women of whom the great King Solomon wrote:
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
At the end of the memorial I attended this weekend, the speaker closed with this:
“I want to thank you all for being with us in this celebration!”
His words shocked me, but they could not be more fitting. Their legacy was that of one whom the world was not worthy. I hope such a claim can be made of my life when I die.
What will people say at your funeral? Who will be there? What kind of legacy will you leave?
*The statistics provided come from Worldometers and Wikipedia.