Four Words

We buried my father in law a couple of weeks ago. It is always a time of reflection when you attend (and speak at) a funeral. Questions like – “What will people say about me?” and “What is my life counting for?” race through your mind.

The family took an entire afternoon to sit together, tell stories, laugh and cry together as we celebrated his long and full life. We marveled at his generosity, his sense of humor, his love for God and for others, his church, his patriotism, and his impact on all of us.

I was particularly struck though by the visit we had with the lady at the cemetery to finalize the arrangements for the burial. There are so many decisions to make during a time when no one really feels like making any. Plots, granite, vase, markers, ceremony – and of course – paying for it all..

The decision that has left an indelible imprint in my soul is the one regarding his head stone marker. Obviously, his name and dates of birth and death are displayed. There is also a small amount of space left for a brief description. Our attendant/saleswoman then uttered these words that I will never forget…

What four words do you want to use?

Say what? Four words? We get to sum up his entire life and legacy with four words?

Yes, we get four words. Actually our spouse/family gets to decide on four words that sum up our entire existence on this planet. Whenever they or any other future family member visits your grave, they will be able to tell what kind of man/woman you were, and what your life stood for – by reading four words on a weathered grave marker.

The standard fare seems to be – Beloved husband, father, friend. Another popular one is – He will be missed.

It would probably be a good exercise to walk through a graveyard and make note of the four word descriptions folks have used to describe their loved ones. All I know is that this exercise stopped me in my tracks. What would I want on my marker? What would my wife/family say about the entirety of my life and influence on those around me? What is my life counting for? Does my life really matter?

My question to you is – well, the same question I have been pondering these past three weeks. What do you want on your marker? What four words would will your family use? But the more far reaching question is actually – Will my life matter?

What drives us? What defines us? What are we living for?

“He finally broke par”

“An avid duck hunter”

“A diehard football fan”

“A successful business executive”

“He went to church”

It all boils down to this – The family will get four words. What will they say about the imprint you have made on them and on those around you?

We only get one shot at this – and the clock is winding down. The older I get, the faster it goes.

We all end up at the cemetery. People will gather, words will be spoken, people will bring food and send cards – and then everyone will go home and back to work.

What will they say? What kind of wake will you leave behind? What size hole will you leave in your community, your church, your family?

Honestly, I think we all want our life to count for something. We all want to be significant in some way. But, what are we doing about it? Time is literally running out. We get to choose.

He showed us Jesus.

He loved us well.

He loved like Jesus.

Let’s not waste another day. Ask God what four words He would choose for you, and for the courage to follow Him each day we have left here.



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Four Words

  1. I agree with Bill…a very thought provoking post. Years ago in a Sunday school class, a good friend and spiritual mentor asked the entire class “what do you want your epitaph to be?” The general discussion following his question addressed how the epitaph “He was a nice guy” just isn’t enough. The clas members all agreed that most folks these days might THINK that being a “nice guy” is enough, but that there are a lot of non-believers who fit into that category of “nice guy” (or gal). Our calling is so much higher, and I think it is a worthy endeavor for each of us to look into our mirrors and see if we are TRULY living our desired four words. It should put a smile on His face…

Comments are closed.