Death

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (Image via Wikipedia)

“Every now and then”, he told the congregation, “I think about my death.” His words brought a low murmur of surprise from the parishioners.

“I don’t think of it in a morbid sense,” he qualified, smiling faintly. “I ask myself what I would want said. If any of you are around when I have to meet my day… I don’t want a long funeral. And tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. None of that is important. I’d like somebody to mention that day that …Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life to serving others… I’d like for somebody to mention that day that … Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody…

I want you to say that day that … I tried to be right on the war question… I want you to be able to say that day that … I did try to feed the hungry… I want you to be able to say that day that … I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked …

I want you to say on that day that … I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison …

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice! Say that I was a drum major for peace! And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.

That’s all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along … if I can cheer somebody with a word or song … if I can show somebody that he’s travelling wrong … then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought … if I can spread the message as the Master taught … then my living will not be in vain.”

Devotions today got us thinking about death. Martin Luther King, Jr. had thought about what he would want said at his funeral. He sounds rather humble. He doesn’t want to be known for his achievements like the Nobel Peace Prize. He just wants to be known as someone who lived the Christian way.

It reminded me of a question that was put to incoming General Linda Bond, which was what she would like on her gravestone, and she responded “She loved the Lord.”

But a question was posed in devotions that hit a bit of a raw nerve. It was, “Who would be at your funeral?”

Almost ten years ago, had I been asked that question, I probably would have said, “No-one.” I felt completely alone, and quite often had thoughts along the lines of “Would anyone miss me if I was dead?” or “I wonder what I’d do if I came home and my whole family was dead?” Looking back, it was really quite morbid, quite depressive.

Yet I look at my life a couple of years after that, and I would have said that there would be a number of people there. Today, I would say that I may well pack out my church, looking at the fact we packed out the church for our wedding. I’ve come a long way in my thinking, in my mental state in those nearly ten years. I look back now and say, had I needed a funeral back then, there would’ve been a great number of people there. Why? Because on looking back, I can see the number of people who loved me, even though I couldn’t see it at the time.

And what would I like said about me now? I think I will go with General Bond’s response, “He loved the Lord.”

What would you like said about you at your funeral?

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Author: Ben Clapton

I'm an Officer in The Salvation Army, currently appointed with my wife as Corps Officers at the Rochester Corps in country Victoria (20 minutes out of Echuca). I play violin and guitar, amongst many others, and love golf and running.

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