Of Beaches and Funerals

            In his best-selling book about personal change, Stephen Covey opens the chapter, “Begin with the End in Mind” with the following exercise. Imagine attending the funeral of a loved one. Picture arriving at the funeral home or our church:  see the parking lot, the sanctuary filled with the scent of flowers, mourners dressed in grey and black. You notice the sorrowful faces of family and friends. You move towards the casket, look down and are shocked by what you see. You are lying at rest. You have died.

            In a daze, you take a seat in the pew and then glance at the bulletin. Four people will speak about you. The first speaker is a member of your family. The second person is a friend of yours. The third a co-worker or business associate; and the fourth is a member of Thompson Church.

            With this scene fixed in your mind, Stephen Covey urges you to consider the following series of questions:

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate? What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully around you [at your funeral]. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Look carefully around you [at your funeral]. What difference would you like to have made?

            Early during our family’s vacation in Avalon, New Jersey, I sat on the beach with another pastor. He and I basically did Covey’s exercise while our kids swam in the ocean. I had never met this man before. I was actually delighted that after an hour, we were talking about death and life matters.

            How would I like want to be remembered? I’ll tell you . . .

            As a husband: I want to be remembered as the man who gratefully and deeply loved Leslie. I hope that I will be remembered for putting her before every human relationship. I wanted to be remembered for standing beside her in all the days of our marriage—sunny days, cloudy days, and stormy days, all.  Most of all, I hope Leslie knows how much I love her and how grateful I am to have her as my wife.

            As a father: I hope that Sam and Miles will know that they brought me unspeakable joy. I am so proud who they are and who they will become. I hope they will remember the great fun we had skiing, skating, hiking, mountain-biking, kayaking, wave-running, cooking, serving others, and eating great meals together. I love and like those boys beyond words, and from here to the moon and back.

            As a friend: I consider myself exceedingly wealthy for the quality and quantity of the friends I have had in my life. I hope that my friends know how much they have given me. When my friends call me or email me or show up, I’m as a happy as a five-year-old boy with a new puppy. A true friend, someone told me once, points us to God. Most of the spiritual growth I have known in my life can be traced back to one friend or another.


            As a church member (Pastor): Pastors are invited into almost every aspect of life. I hope that the members of the churches I served in my ministry realize that I am honored by their willingness to ask me into their lives, hearts, and souls. Church members could spend much time talking about my many failures and numerous short-comings. I hope that great grace of God shows through my cracks of my life and ministry. And ultimately, may they forget the channel and see only Jesus.