WHAT DO YOU WANT ON YOUR TOMBSTONE?
Brothers and Sisters,
In times past, many people – especially those in politics or business – would want their legacy to be something that they had built, a program they founded, a new feat accomplished, or an endeavor they began. You even see this in some parishes where some things are labeled as “donated” or “built” by some long-deceased member of the congregation.
More commonly, I imagine that all of us have wondered how our family, friends, and neighbors see us and our contributions; for example: am I the funny one, the smart one, they creative one, the one who is best at sports, music, mechanics, or something else? These are all leaning questions which ultimately ask of ourselves “what do I want to be remembered for, how have I contributed to the world, and did I make an impact that will be lasting and appreciated?” In a phrase, what do you want on your tombstone? What do you want to have as your lasting memory by those who live after you die?
When I walk through the cemeteries to pray for the dead, I see how the faithful departed (or their surviving relatives) attempted to answer that question. Perhaps there is a drawing of something they liked, a carving of something they were involved in, a factual statement such as “parent of,” or most often there is a relational statement like “beloved parent/child/friend.”
I wonder if you see what I find missing. If all there was to life was to accomplish something before death, then I wouldn’t find anything missing; but we are looking forward to something greater than this life – but it is through our faith and good works in this life that we hope to make it to life eternal. A cross or crucifix, a Biblical quote, or writing of a saint would point out that we’re hoping for Heaven while living on Earth.
This is a big note for Saint John the Baptist. If he had a traditional Christian tombstone, it would not say that he co-founded baptism or even that he is blood relation of Jesus Christ. Rather, here are some of the things he might have put: last and greatest prophet, forerunner of the morn, or perhaps a quote like “I saw of Dawning Ray,” or “behold the Lamb of God.”
Now that is a legacy! He was a Christian, he helped other people have faith in Christ, he stood by the Christian Faith during the difficult times, and was even willing to sent to prison and die rather than deny Christ. That is something to put on a tombstone; that is something that is worth saying about the deceased.
Reinvigorate yourself today so that your life could be summarized in the same way. The most honorable title or accomplishment that I will ever see on a tombstone would be: “+ [name], a Christian.”
God be near,