Reading My Own Obituary by Bill Stough

The sign on the marquee outside the funeral home in St. Clair, Missouri read: “William Stough; graveside; Jefferson Barracks.” It had been posted July 13, 2007 and stayed there until Monday, July 16. In a town where I am well known this created quite a stir. Phone calls were being made to friends of mine asking what had happened. There had been no indication that anything had been wrong with me but people can die very suddenly. That occurs commonly and can happen to any of us.

The obituary was actually referring to my 95 year old father who had just died and whom I had been spending extensive time with as his death approached. But in this community I am the one who is well known and he is not. His name is also William, although I go by Bill. When a store in adjacent Union, Missouri inquired if I were dead, I told them “the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.“ 

Nonetheless as I read that marquee, I thought about how that could be me. Indeed, one day I will be joining him. 

We don’t like to think about it, but a wise person will occasionally meditate on the fact that death is in our future. It is wise to make our days count.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart (Eccl. 7:2).” 

God wants us to have our heads screwed on straight and seek him while we are alive. Note what Solomon writes in Eccl.12:1-2, 5-7 (KJV): “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. While the sun, or the light, or the moon , or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain; … because man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”

I once made a service call to a recently retired man and he was showing me about his home and pointing out all the improvements he was making. Then he suddenly stated “I wonder if I shouldn’t be putting some time and effort into God and eternal life rather than just this house only?” He caught me by surprise, but we had a good discussion following that. Shouldn’t we all listen to my customer’s concern?

It’s easy to get snared in the here-and-now and Satan would love it to be that way. In Matthew 13, Christ gave the parable of the sower and the seed. He describes being overly concerned with the cares of this life (Verses 7-9 and 22). It is compared to thorns choking the growth of a plant. Always remember that this life is short and something far more important lies ahead. Put efforts there and not just into the cares of this life. We each need to be a praying person and be involved in helping others. Use our gifts. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Don’t be stopped by the fact that “someone else can do it better.” Do things anyway.  We don’t have forever in this life. Make it count.

What good is pursuing money? I have known so many who did nothing but that. But they died and how did that money help them? What will they have when they come up in the resurrection? And what good is pursuing power and recognition in whatever personal form it takes for us? All these things will be gone when it is our name posted outside the funeral home. 

Jesus wants us to seek him and his righteousness and let him be the provider (Mat.6-33-34). If we do that, we don’t have to be obsessed with what it takes to survive in the here-and-now.

David brings out the motivation an older person should have in Ps.71:17-18. “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your  marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

Jesus knew he had a short time to do his work. He died before he was 34 years old. “As long as it is day we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4-5).” 

We too must work on things that matter while it is day. When we die, it is night. Your name will at some future time be posted outside a funeral home.

God remembers us and what we have done. Job described it elegantly in Job 14:14-15 (NIV): “If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made.”