In one of I. Merle Good’s musical plays there is a song with the line, “It hardly matters what I know or where I’ve been or where I go, if I have learned to live,” with the refrain, “If I have learned to live, then I have learned to die. It hardly matters how I die, or who I am remembered by, if I have learned to live.”
What makes death feel so tragic, especially that of a young person, is when a life hasn’t had a chance to be lived out, or in some case has been wasted or misspent.
Maybe we’ll never feel a life has been long enough to really be complete in the way one New Testament writer affirms, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.” With that sense of completion, one might be more nearly ready to die as one would retire at night after a full, satisfying and well spent day--tired, finished, ready to lie down and rest.
In our case, my wife and my remains are to go into an inexpensive casket and vault and buried in the cemetery of the Zion Mennonite Church south of Broadway, where I served as pastor for 20 years. But the simple memorial stone that will mark our burial site will not be our legacy. That we will be in whatever love we have managed to live, celebrate and leave behind for our children and whoever else’s lives we have been able to touch.