Jan. 19, 2017

Ashes to Ashes...Dust to Dust...

“...earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust...”

These words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are the words that are spoken over the dearly departed, commending their soul to God and committing their earthly remains to the ground.

But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. Instead, let’s skip over all that funeral part and get right to the obituary. I, personally, am a fairly habitual obituary reader, mainly to be sure I’m not in there, and also to see who might be there that I actually know. I have been astonished to find that folks who seemed fine a few weeks ago are now in that column. Anyway, most obituaries are accompanied by a photograph. I study these pictures carefully, while noting the beginning and ending dates of the subject. My favorite photos are the ones taken while the person was in their best looking era, i.e., 40’s and 50’s. And then there are the ones I am positive would never have been the decedent’s choice.

People frequently take a great deal of time organizing their final public appearance, the photo slide show, the music, lists of people they want to be invited and, conversely, lists of people not to be invited, but they seldom think of what photograph will accompany them in everyone’s mind for all eternity. Now I ask you: Have you thought about this? Wouldn’t you rather everyone remember you the day you looked fantastic and were about to attend some marvelous event? The day you went sailing and were wearing a really terrific shirt, your hair was blowing in the wind, your makeup was perfection and you were holding a glass of champagne?

Guys, wouldn’t you like your picture to be of you the day you were sitting on a Harley, your imagination had you actually owning that bike and riding it... you know, “Born to be wild!” Your eyes had that far-away ‘soldier of adventure’ look and you looked totally buff? Or maybe you’re the guest of honor at a testimonial dinner and you’re in a tux and look completely James Bond?

I have a fabulous picture of my adorable husband...I have a lot of fabulous pictures of him, but this one is where he was just about to give his daughter, Patti, to her future husband, Dave, and they are looking at each other with such happiness and love, or the one of him, again, in a tux with one foot up on the bumper of his red Alfa Romeo. I think these are my favorites of him, surrounded by family, a big smile on his face and his eyes filled with joy.

As for myself, I’m still looking for the perfect photo, but trust me on this, my selection will be made in plenty of time.

The photo isn’t really all that important when viewed in the words of Psalm 90:

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers. So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Selected verses)

But it can’t hurt to have a few photos set aside anyway.