What will your obituary say about you and the life you lived? Recently I attended the memorial service of a dear man who I knew only fleetingly. Charlie was quiet and unassuming, but he always made it a point to stop by my office on his way to his volunteer job with the Respite Care program housed in another part of the church building. He would ask how I was doing, and I would inquire about his wife of over sixty years who suffered with chronic back pain. At Christmas time, he would bring me a hand-crafted gift that his wife had made for each member of the church’s staff.
I was drawn to Charlie because of his humility, kindness and gentle manner. I could tell that his wife’s unrelenting pain drew worry lines in his face. One day, he told me she could no longer sit in the pew and had to stay home from church. He said she had given up hope of ever experiencing relief and prayed daily for the Lord to “take her home.” I promised to continue praying for her healing, but mainly that she would find strength, comfort and peace. We both assumed she would go first, that he would be able to care for her lovingly until the end. There was never a hint of resentment in his voice, only frustration that he couldn’t do anything to relieve her pain. Our brief encounters always ended with a warm hug.
That was the extent of my relationship with Charlie. After a few years of his “stop-bys” I noticed he was slowing down. He developed a shuffle and began walking with a cane, but he never considered dropping his volunteer job. I learned from the Respite Care manager that he loved his job and the clients loved this man of few words who had more than enough compassion to go around.
Charlie ended up in Hospice Care and eventually passed away at the age of 83. His obituary was only two paragraphs long, referring to his 63-year marriage, his two daughters, one grandson, some siblings, nieces and nephews. That was it.
At his memorial service, I learned that Charlie’s legacy was one of quiet service. He was greatly influenced by a mission trip he undertook to Latvia. After that trip, he continued to support the home for unwed mothers and their children that our church helped establish. As a member of the church’s “Tool Guys,” he quietly accomplished odd jobs around the building and helped people in the community who couldn’t afford to pay for home repairs. His service to Respite Care was never mentioned. While I was surprised by the omission, I knew that’s how Charlie would have wanted it.
On the surface, Charlie’s life seemed to be one of little significance. He lived an existence devoid of fanfare. His accomplishments were few… or were they?
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available from amazon.com or hightidepublications.com