Over the years, I have been asked to officiate a lot of funerals.
Many times, these occasions, while sad, can be times of joy and a blessing to the preacher. Death is a natural part of life, it is inevitable, and for many it marks the ending of a time of sickness and physical discomfort and pain and the passing to a life of wholeness . . . a life lived in the eternity promised to those in Christ. Those who are left to grieve, while sad, are comforted in the faith that God blesses his people. (For the minister, blessing can come in his contact with the family, the pastoral care that is given, and in the joy of bringing honor to the one who has passed, through the words that are spoken. An older minister told me long ago that the experience of a funeral can bring you closer to a family than just about anything else.)
There are times, however, when death is altogether sad . . . and final.
A few years ago I directed a funeral that was altogether sad. It was for a woman I did not know. As I prepared my remarks, I was told that she had a brief relationship with the church many years ago, and may have even been baptized at some point, but for 50 years had no obvious life of faith.
When I meet with a family to plan a funeral, I ask for memories of the one who has passed and for special reflection on their character. As I met with this particular family, in preparation for my remarks at the woman's funeral, I was given just one statement about the person (beyond the bare details of the obituary). A son-in-law simply said, "She loved KFC." That was it. That was all the family could tell me about this person . . . their mother, sister, aunt, friend.
She loved KFC. That was the one memory her family had of her. How sad.
Now, perhaps I am being too cold . . . too harsh. Perhaps the family was too steeped in grief to be able to articulate anything more. I truly hope that there was something more, much more, about this woman than that she loved fried chicken. But, sadly, many live their lives focused on the superficial. Despite the potential for a deeper and more meaningful legacy, some devote all their attention and energies on things that will not last . . . things that will go to the grave with them.
I am reminded of Esau. You know, the one who sold his birthright for a bowl of stew. Give me some of that "red stuff" he demanded of his brother. The writer of Hebrews warns: "See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal. You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears" (Hebrews 12.16-17).
Life in this world is never certain. Make your legacy be something substantially more than "She loved KFC."