DEATH BECOMES YOU

I realize it has been just a few weeks since I wrote a blog with the word ‘death’ in the title.  I guess I have been doing way too many funerals lately.  Whenever I get a wave of people passing away around me I begin to get a bit focused on it.   It comes out in my preaching and people wonder why I am always talking about death and dying.  Sure I will also tell the requisite  jokes about it… but it is still a bit morose.

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There is one question that I am constantly reminded of when I am in funeral mode like I have been rescently.  What is the one thing that  really matters when you are lying in that coffin (or increasingly more frequently an urn)?  The car you drove, the house you owned, the money you made and even the success you had… none of it matters at that moment.  Oh sure there will be plenty of time for the vultures to swoop in and fight over your car and jewelery later, but on this day, none of that matters.  The only thing of real value that we leave behind is not material at all, but rather how we enriched the lives of the people that our life touched while we were alive.

I am fond of telling folks to plan their funeral now.  I am not referring to the coffin, the flowers and the tiny little sandwiches with the crusts cut off.  Who really cares about any of that?  Give me a homemade pine box and bury me in the backyard under the dog house for all I care.  The funeral business is a racket.  They are trained to make you believe that the way to honor the dead is to put you in a rosewood coffin with pearl handles and drive you around in an expensive limousine.  If I wanted to go for a limo ride I would do it now when I can at least see the view and play with the power windows.

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No, I am talking about planning what people say about you at your funeral.  It is that brief few minutes where someone stands up and tries to catch the essence of who you where that really matters.  What we did with our life will be summed up in how we impacted the lives of the people around us.  That is our only true legacy.

Several years ago I did a funeral for a man I had only met once, in the checkout line at Zellers.  That says alot about my values too doesn’t it?  When I interviewed the family and asked what kind of man he was, the only thing they could think of was that he was ‘hard working’.  No one was willing to do an eulogy and I had to put together a funeral for a ‘hardworking man who shopped at Zellers’.  It was not my finest work.

On Monday I buried Uncle Norman.  Norman was born in a log cabin in a remote part of Manitoba.  They had no electricity or running water.  Norman never went to even one day of school.  He could not read or write for his entire 71 years.  For most of his adult life he worked at the car-wash.  Ten years ago when the car-wash closed their doors he was unable to get work since he had no marketable skills and he had to go on welfare.  For the last 8 years he lived in the basement of his nieces house.  He never even drove a car, let alone owned one.  When he passed away last week his niece was able to gather all his worldly possessions into one single box.  My goodness, when I die my family is going to spend weeks throwing out boat and car parts that I have stored in my garage for vehicles I don’t even own anymore.

But here is that part of Norman’s story that you don’t want to miss.  For his funeral I thought we would have a dozen people show up.  I was surprised that the chapel was almost full on a Monday afternoon.  Then person after person got up and told of how Uncle Norman enriched their life… how he brought joy, laughter, goodness and kindness to everybody that he met… how what little he had he would gladly share with others.  The expression; “He would give you the shirt off of his back’ was used, because that was literally all that he had.  I was really taken aback by how this simple man who had zero earthly accomplishments; no possessions, no awards, no diplomas for anything, had made such a difference to the people around him.  That day put many things into perspective for me.  I realized I am way too caught up in the things and the cares of this world.

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How we live our life and the impact we make while we were alive comes out in the brief moment when we are lying motionless in the coffin.  For me people might say, “Well this is the first time Mark has ever been in front of a crowd… and had nothing to say.”   It is at that moment when your actions will have to speak for you.  Better start planning that today.  Because in the end, death becomes you.

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21 Responses to DEATH BECOMES YOU

  1. Vanessa says:

    I always enjoy church of the Rock and was happy when you started a blog as well. I read it every week. I was curious Pastor Mark about your feelings about being cremated (after death of course).

  2. Teresa says:

    I love this!
    I wanna die like Uncle Norman!!

  3. Mark Hughes says:

    There are some strong opinions against cremation amongst christians. They come out of the fact that biblically burial was the norm and cremation comes out of Eastern religions like Hinduism. The bible however is silent on the subject and does not forbid it. Therefore I have no problem with it. I’m still doing the pine box in the backyard though.

  4. Phil says:

    There’s an expression I like to use that I got from my dad – “Some people spread joy whereever they go, and others whenever they go”. Sounds like Norman was a “whereever” type of guy and that’s what I try to be. I don’t want people to say nice things about me only AFTER I’m dead but now also. It’s not because I need to hear their praise, but it’s good to know I’m being the right kind of man. Proverbs 22:1 says (NIV) “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

  5. Anessa says:

    Love your preaching and love your blog. Thanks for everything!

  6. Theo says:

    A couple of thoughts in regards to your writings. First, I hope you do not get discouraged about the funerals you are doing, but rather learning and being able to spread God’s love and mercy to those who have lost loved ones. Secondly, yes, it is amazing how many people think that material things matter more than being a child of God. Reading about Norman reminded me of the story in the Bible about the old lady who put in all her money to the church, quietly, while others wanted to be showoffs.

  7. Betty says:

    Very interesting, Pastor Mark.
    When I read the story of your Uncle Norman, I was reminded of the song, by Johnny Cash and part of the song goes like this.
    “What On Earth Will You Do For Heavens Sake?
    Are you patient with the weak?
    Are you counted with the meek?
    Would you lift the lowly heart, or let it brake?
    Would you give away your shirt, and over look a figures dirt?
    What on earth will you do, for heavens sake?”

  8. Mark, you are the best, right up there with Uncle Norman, David Suzuki has a great story about a rose bush in his back yard that was always weak until he spread his Mother’s ashes around it now the roses flourish, wonder if the Dog will flourish with you under the dog house.

  9. Evelyn Bennett says:

    I love the way you described how commercial funerals have become. The focus should be on the legacy left along with insight the deceased may have brought to the living.

  10. Betty says:

    To add to my last part, when it comes to funerals, this might sound crazy, but at my Uncles & Aunts or my cousins funeral, it was a great time to have a family reunion and meet relatives whom we had not seen for years and we had a great time visiting with each other and at one funural I told my cousin who had a number of family members & cousins, that passed away within a year or two,[which were also my relitives and my used to be neighbors,] that I did not know what to say to him, then he said: That was OK, that I had come to the funeral, meant alot to him.

  11. Jasmine says:

    Hi Pastor Mark,

    When you’re gone, I would say that you blessed us by challenging us to improve ourselves and our world. I’ve heard many times from those around me that I’m too serious and I know that I am very intense when it comes to things that are important to me. You, on the other hand, have an uncanny knack for cracking me up with your play on words and your stories. I don’t want to be remembered for being too serious, so would you have any tips on how to lighten up?

  12. Isaac says:

    After my Grandpa died I really began to realize what’s actually worth living for, and totally rearranged my priorities. I realized a lot of what I was worrying about, or getting angry about, or focussing on was simply not worth it.

  13. Victoria says:

    Last night I watched “The amazing race”, and I learned the strangest thing! People in Ghana put their deceased in elaborate “Fantasy coffins”, colored and shaped after a certain object,such as a fish,crab, boat, musical instruments and other strange oddities. There they were racing against time, moving giant fish coffins down the road, to the coffin store! Wow! I’m just wondering if the Ghana people think they will inherit these qualities in the afterlife? AND since I haven’t read the bible, can you tell me if there IS an afterlife? Our bodies evaporate eventually, but our spirits are much more portable! (This I KNOW is true, as I have had a near death experience in which my heart actually stopped, and I watched my boyfriend give me CPR from the corner of the room.)
    At that time in my life I had given up on humanity and wished my own death, because of the person I TRY to be. (Generous,helpful,encouraging, and generally a happy person)
    To this day I still feel responsible for inspiring certain musicians, artists, actors, writers, and finally the marketing involving certain business projects. BUT I never received the proper credit or financial dividend from this work. I got completely taken advantage of in the music industry, and the only thing that comforts me, is the fact that I know I did not have to sell my soul to be successful. It’s really scary,I came so close! They did. They now suffer in private, but in the public, they seem to have it ALL! Don’t be fooled by the lifestyles of the rich and famous…every one of them has paid a price for what they now have. I chose GOD. I chose his light and his life. He has made it clear to me that it always seems greener on the other side of the fence……….But it still hurts every time I hear a song I remixed and never got to impress anyone with the proof that I did it. I now take anti-depressant medication to help control the fits of rage I would experience, as I hear the tracks on the radio quite often.
    So WHAT
    have I
    left in this world
    for people to remember ME by,
    if I have not been given credit
    for doing ANY of it?!
    Can someone tell me?

  14. Betty says:

    Very interesting,Victoria.
    We enjoy watching “The Amazing Race,”I thought they were very passionate about their job, those that make the coffins, since my friend Peter Y. and team said,they have had many Gospel Festivals in Ghana, those people are very hungry, for the Gospel.

    Those years, when I was so depressed, I asked myself many times, if the world really would notice that I was not alive anymore?!
    Jesus I Praise you, for who you are, for caring so much for us and every detail of our life and for that Promised Land, that you have prepared for us.
    Now that Jesus has helped me to understand, it is not me, that has to do the work, but JESUS living in me, will do the work through me, it has changed my life and it’s amazing to see the choices I make, with Jesus in control.

  15. Jusuf says:

    very interesting subject. Thanks pastor.
    My wife and I already have a lifetime member of a funeral home in our old country back in south-east asia. As a canadian, it would be very expensive when the time come to fly a dead body overthere. Cremation is the option, cheap easy and for me is just a used body that soon only bone left on the ground.
    It’s also interesting though that many organizations offering “leaving your legacy by putting your name in public places or clubs”.
    When the time come, I don’t think I will ever care much about legacy, because I look forward to see face to face with my GOD.
    Do I care about legacy now ?
    Frankly, any good things I have done and will be done within my capability is not for the sake of legacy nor for the sake of receiving rewards from GOD, but as a natural flow of myself as a man who had done more sins than anyone on this page but received an amazing grace from GOD thru Jesus Christ.

  16. I cand speak for everone here Victoria but I know that in my life of 43 years I have learned valuable things.
    The first and most important is not to put my trust in people.
    I am not talking about don’t trust the sales man who you purchase your car from or the pilot at the controls of the plane you are a passenger. We all have to trust other people in our lives.
    However when it comes to relationships the only one I can trust to pour into my life is Jesus Christ. Until I understood who I was in Jesus I was always looking to others to fufill me in ways that only God could (and would) if I let him.
    Trusting in others to fufill your dreams is like trusting the weather to be ideal when you want it to be, sometimes it works and more often it doesnt. Trusting God and knowing who you really are in Jesus will allieviate the need for anti depressants as there is no way for God to dissapoint me and he is NEVER dissapointed with us.
    I love mark’s plan for a pine box in the back yard as it speaks to the promise if God that we are his Children and he want’s nothing but us with him in this life and the next. All other religions have their ways of “appeasing” their gods to become acceptable for the afterlife as exemplified in Ghana with the “fantasy coffins”.
    My eteriny is safe with Jesus Christ through his blood on the cross and there is nothinhg I can add to it and thankfully nothing I can take away from it. Everything else outside Jesus is just stuff. Believe me I have lots of stuff and I am considered rich by any worldly standard but my wealth is in one and only one treasure. Jesus Christ.

  17. Jeff says:

    It’s interesting to read Victoria’s view on wanting to be noticed. I suggest reading Matthew 6 for starters, where Jesus repeatedly tells us to do things in private where no one but the Father can see, and will reward us accordingly. Don’t get me wrong…I struggle with this too…especially when you do things from your heart and someone else takes the credit…but are we looking for earthly rewards or heavenly rewards?

    There’s an old guy in my town that has some of the most simple but profound sayings that he’s shared with me at just the right time:

    1. You should always keep your temper to yourself…nobody else wants it. (I should have James 3 tattoo’d on my forehead!)

    2. What can you do? You can do nothing. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

    3. It’s nice to be important…but it’s more important to be nice! (See “The Golden Rule”)

    That last one reminds me of another saying that ties in with Pastor Mark’s funeral theme…it’s not the dates on a gravestone that matter…but the dash between them. That dash represents your life and what you did with the time God gave you on this planet.

    Like the bumper sticker says, “stuff” happens! But we just need to give that “stuff” the eternity test. Is this really going to matter when all is said and done??? When your foot touches the floor of heaven and you are face to face with Jesus, I guarantee the “stuff” won’t even cross your mind.

  18. Victoria says:

    Ok.
    I guess I understand the point people are trying to make-
    Jesus Christ and God in heaven are the only ones I should worry about impressing.
    I agree with that, but Jesus Christ doesn’t have 3 kids to feed and pay for on a daily basis.
    I have helped other people make alot of money and I am still struggling financially.
    It’s a little discouraging…I need to use food banks on a weekly basis, and I can’t keep up with the demands of replacing my kids glasses twice a year.(all 3 wear glasses and I cannot pick up the other pairs yet)
    I am hear for my children emotionally,and I cater to them as much as I financially can,with toys and the occasional lunch at Mc Donalds, but I still seethe at the thought of the jerks riding around in their hummers dressed in all the favorite designer labels.

    Last September I was robbed,(don’t ask why) but my purse was taken from me while shopping at a DOLLAR store! Apparently this happens often. The only problem was $26,000 of jewelry and other valuables were in it. I was devastated.I gave myself one day to cry and get over it, and then I had to accept my fate.
    I think I might be destined to be poor. It REALLY sucks.I understand that money isn’t everything,and I can be happy with a minimum of things, but my kids…..they deserve to have what their mother could have given them. I feel like I must be stupid to have let this happen.

    Why is God making an example out of me? My life has been a long long list of violations, hurts ,tears and abandonments/rejections. I just wonder(to myself usually,as I don’t talk about this to my kids) if all the negativity will ever end?(This is also why I take anti-depressants, because I have kids to look after, and i cannot let my failures affect their destinies.)

  19. Jeff says:

    Hi Victoria,

    A Blog is fine for sharing thoughts and opinions…but it is not the place to get or give serious Godly council…and it sounds to me like that is what you are looking for. It’s fine for those of us reading and adding our thoughts to tell you what bible verses to read and that you need to pray, but that’s only going to get you so far. If you are in Winnipeg, why don’t you approach Church of the Rock for help in dealing with your situation? If you are located somewhere else, take the time to find a church in your area that is uncompromising in their belief and teaching of the true gospel of Jesus. Good churches have people in leadership that are gifted in providing Godly council. There are also Christian Counciling Centres that provide help at little or no cost. I personally believe that it HAS to be Godly council and that without Jesus as the centre of your life, you will continue to struggle. Be prepared though…you may not like everything you are told…but if you want real Godly advice and solutions to making your situation and life better, you need to be willing to take the steps to get there. I’m praying that you are able to find help for your troubles.

  20. Victoria says:

    Keeping in mind that I am a Christian that is growing every day, I understand how you might think I am looking for serious help. To be frank, we all need someone to talk to.I just need a bit of a sounding board to express my losses. Maybe others have had similar experiences.
    Thank you for reading and considering my situation-
    I am starting Alpha group tomorrow in my area, I will be learning more about bible references, ect.
    I do not live in Winnipeg any more, I did for 17 years. If I did I would be very involved in that church! I love church of the rock-wish I could sky lift it to Quebec!
    As far as not liking everything I am told :I have been watching the doctor Phil Housewives at 5:oo pm on Tuesdays, and it has really been interesting! Most people have trouble taking constructive criticism-especially these 5 ladies! So I think I can be open to the opinions of others.
    Dr.Phil is a man of God, and I certainly adore and respect his opinions on many things! In my life, it’s not the cost of things that are preventing me from getting help-Help is free to those that can find it-

    it’s the learning to forgive and let go of the past that takes awhile!

    Besides I always look forward to hearing what someone thinks on this blog!

  21. Jeff says:

    Cool! Hope I didn’t offend you…that definately wasn’t my intent. I hope you enjoy the Alpha course. My wife and I attended one almost 10 years ago, and even though I was already a believer, it reignited my faith.

    No comment on Dr. Phil (Insert Pastor Mark’s impression of Dr. Phil here). Seriously though…remember it’s a TV show…take in and keep what’s good and forget the rest.

    Forgiveness is a battle that EVERYONE (whether a believer or not) struggles with. It’s part of being human and it’s something we all need to deal with day by day. Don’t be discouraged.

    Blessings to you and your kids. Keep your chin up!