What will you do to make your mark?

Posted Oct. 08, 2010, at 8:55 p.m.

What’s the name of your great-great-grandfather? What did he do to earn a living? Where is he buried?

Not sure of the answers? Has it ever occurred to you that you, too, may be just four generations away from being faceless, nameless and nearly forgotten?

For more than 30 years, my wife and I lived at the church parsonage in Monson. We enjoyed a close friendship with our next-door neighbors. But six years ago, our neighbor died. His wife moved away. Four years ago, we also moved. Last month I called my former neighbor’s house. The lady who answered the phone had no idea who I was. She didn’t even recognize my name.

The Bible says that when a man dies, “He will not return again to his house, nor will his place know him anymore.” (Job 7:10)

Over the years I have officiated at many funerals and graveside services. I have tried to fairly and accurately summarize the life of the individual who has died.

But what will the minister say at your funeral? When you die, how will you be remembered?

Are you leaving a positive mark on the world? Are you building up or tearing down? Will you be known as a crank and a critic, or an encourager? Will you be remembered for your smile or your scowl?

If you don’t like your answers to those questions, but are still breathing, it’s not too late to do something about it. Begin by paying someone a

compliment. Do it today.

Twenty-five years ago, I was sitting next to a man at a Kiwanis meeting. At some point he looked down and said, “I like your shoes.” I didn’t know Orm Fortier very well at the time, and he didn’t know very much about me. But he said something nice to me that day, and I’ve never forgotten it. Mr. Fortier died three years ago, but his memory and encouragement lives on.

In 1972, the Statler Brothers popularized a song written by members Don and Harold Reid. It may be the saddest song ever written:

Tommy’s selling used cars, Nancy’s fixing hair,

Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn’t care.

Jerry drives a truck for Sears and Charlotte’s on the make.

Paul sells life insurance and part-time real estate.

Helen is a hostess, Frank works at the mill.

Janet teaches grade school and probably always will.

Bob works for the city and Jack’s in lab research.

Peggy plays organ at the Presbyterian Church.

And the Class of ’57 had its dreams.

We all thought we’d change the world with our great works and deeds.

Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs.

The Class of ’57 had its dreams.

Betty runs a trailer park. Jan sells Tupperware.

Randy’s on an insane ward and Mary’s on welfare.

Charlie took a job with Ford; Joe took Freddie’s wife.

Charlotte took a millionaire and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt.

Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody’s bet.

Linda married Sonny; Brenda married me.

And the class of all of us is just part of history.

And the Class of ’57 had its dreams

But living life day to day is never like it seems.

Things get complicated when you get past eighteen.

But the Class of ’57 had its dreams.

Ah, the class of ’57 had its dreams.

Do you have a dream? Or have all your dreams fizzled? Who says that it’s too late to set some new goals? But this time, make God central in your planning.

“Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (Psalm 37:3-5)

Charles Thomas Studd was born in England in 1860. He excelled at cricket by age 16. He received even further acclaim in the sport while attending Trinity College in Cambridge. But he gave it all up when he sensed God’s call on his life. He became a missionary.

Studd spent 15 years in China, six years in India and the rest of his life in Africa. His life story is full of hard times and trials. He lost two sons in their infancy. And he died in 1931 at age 70.

At one point in his life, C.T. Studd penned these words as part of a longer poem: “Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Some men die in ashes. Some men die in flames. Some men die playing silly little games.

For what are you living? How will you die?

The Rev. Daryl E. Witmer is founder and director of the AIIA Institute, a national apologetics ministry, and pastor emeritus at the Monson Community Church. He may be reached online at AIIAInstitute.org or by e-mail at AIIAInstitute@aol.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.

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