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Life Words & Tall Trees
A few years back, as part of a spiritual development class, I was given the daunting task of writing an obituary, my own.
Confusion set in. I asked. You want me to write what?
After some humble pondering, I understood.
When we're gone, what qualities do we want spoken about us? -- How do we wish to be remembered? -- How do we envision our obituary to read?
It's a simple concept with far-reaching ramifications. The mere idea of mortality is unsettling enough without the added stress of digging deep to unearth our life's priorities.
Yes indeed, writing your own obituary is a journey into the heart.
The other men in the class were equally assigned. Upon completion, we each read our self epitaphs aloud. All I can say is wow. You begin to gain a better understanding of people when you hear them relate their legacy.
Like yourself, you'll get a glimpse into their hearts. Their strengths and weaknesses begin to surface. The task is transparent, humbling, and necessary!
Needless to say and without a doubt, I have a lot of work to do!
If there was ever a man who didn't need a lot of work; who could have written his obituary with honesty and humility, it was my wife's grandfather, A.J.
To borrow a better term, A.J. was a tall tree.
Two years ago, A.J. went home to be with the Lord. The genuine, heartfelt outpouring of affection he received was apparent and well-deserved.
There were two viewings and both were standing room only. It was the same for the memorial service. A.J.'s life had touched numerous others with grace, generosity, and love.
By worldly standards he was a successful businessman. By familial standards, the proud father of five children. But it was by God's standard where A.J. truly shined.
As honest as they come and reliable as the sunrise, A.J. was always there when needed. Whether it was someone short on rent, short on food, short on clothing, or short of a fishing buddy, A.J. could be counted on.
Even though he voluntarily lacked many material things, he never lacked faith. It was the backbone of his life. He openly lived it. Faith was one of A.J.'s life words. It was faith that matured him into a tall tree.
OUR LIFE WORDS
An excellent example of A.J.'s faith was his love and compassion for the weak, neglected, and sick. I firmly believe this was one of his greatest ministries and it was often my joy to share in it with him.
A.J. ministered in many ways but most prominent in my eyes was his music. A.J. loved music. He loved guitars, and banjos, and just about anything with strings on it. And he played most of them fairly well. This was sort of a common hinge we had.
Here I was, an eastsider (that would be a Missouri boy from St. Louis transplanted out west to Kansas City), who just happened to play a few of these stringed things himself. We had a bond almost instantly. I'll never forget some of the conversations we had about "all those funny chords."
Playing music with A.J. and his merry group of gospel bandoliers was a joy I'll never forget. We played every week at local nursing homes and the happiness he handed out was infectious. Everyone loved to hear his plucky banjo and mature, gentle voice. The sounds were not always graceful, but his heart was.
I loved playing music with A.J. This was always our final song.
If someone would've asked him what his life word was, A.J. would have chuckled in his southern Missouri drawl and probably not answered. We all knew he lived by faith. We saw it in everything he did.
Faith is a powerful life word. I have faith but it's not my life word yet. There are too many pieces of my life still under construction. Faith is moving me forward but has yet to mature.
Right now, I'm just a sapling of a tree. Taller faith is obtained through life and trials. I've lived a little. But there are many rings I need to add. A.J. earned his rings through 86 years of life; some good and some bad, but all of them necessary. God just showed me the fruit.
I am forever grateful!
THE QUESTIONS WE ASK
What about you? What is your life word, or words?
How do you wish your obituary to read?
These are tough questions. I know. I feel the same way.
Individuals such as A.J. have entered my life and have greatly influenced the way I look at purpose, people, and faith. These people are my tall trees.
Everyone needs their tall trees. I urge you to nurture these relationships.
Everyone needs their life words. I invite you to discover yours.
When you do, your life changes.
So ask yourself, who are my tall trees and what are my life words? Knowing them should help us grow, change, and mature.
Looking up at our tall trees is inspiring. While discovering our life words can help us plant our own .
Legacies are a big deal. Accountability is eternal.
I see the direction I need to go. The tall trees are above me. Hopefully, I won't get lost in the forest.
In my prayers I search to find the words. As of now, they escape me.
It is my faith moving me forward!