“She tried hard and loved much.”
Not to be morbid, but I hope that can be truthfully put on my tombstone. I’m not planning on dying any time soon, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Over the years I have come to realize that a great way to live is to really consider my own death. What is important in life? How could someone sum up what I’ve done in my short time (hopefully 99, give or take, “short” years of course) on this earth? In a busy world of seemingly endless demands and constant choices which must be made almost instantly, what should I strive for most? What, in short, really matters?
I self identify strongly to labels such as homemaker, wife, educator of my children, writer. These are my life’s work. But in the end, I realize none of these simple facts will mean I have done them well, even if they are memorialized in a permanent, pretty font on a piece of formal grey granite protruding from the earth where my body will some day lie.
She kept a clean house.
I suppose that could be said. But so what? Did my children laugh in my home? Were they loved there? Cared for there? Were they encouraged and challenged and valued? Did I spend time with them? Did I put other less important work before them? Did my husband enjoy coming through the door at the end of a hard day? Was he welcomed warmly and loved passionately and much? Was I a true helpmate to my husband in the journey back to heaven and through life’s struggles or was I distracted with an agenda of my own and overly attentive to personal interests and pleasures and accomplishing something “in the world”?
She was an author. She wrote a column.
Both could be written about me. But truthfully, who cares? Anyone can put down his own opinions on paper. In fact, today with blogging, almost everyone does. And studying English grammar and literature can help many people develop a way with words. The important question will be: Did I seek to share truth in my words? Did I have something substantial to say? Did I think before I said it? Did I help? Did I use my personal gifts and talents wisely? (Mt. 25:14-30) Did my words uplift and encourage? Were they sincere? Kind? Did I seek benefit or to benefit? Did I try?
Yep, I did. I spent a lot of time doing this. But, you know, so do a lot of people. The important question is this: In what did I, with my spouse, educate our offspring? Did I educate them in truth, in morals and virtues and values, in the things that last for eternity? Or was I caught up solely in an academic or fine arts education devoid of meaningful context? Do my children know God better and love more because of the knowledge and experience or worse and less? Are they better people because of what they have learned and the opportunities they have had? That is what counts. That is the stick by which I will be, and should be, measured.
My children’s catechism book asks: Why did God make us? And the answer is: God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven. The next question asks: What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven? And the answer is simple: We must know, love and serve God in this world.
That sounds an awful lot like putting family first and prioritizing in love.
Mother Teresa once said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” Wow. She really made an insightful point.
If we take Mother Teresa’s words to heart does this mean ambassadors should not work to find solutions to world problems or to bring agreements to foreign governments or that social efforts and projects of inclusion and understanding should cease? Of course not. But peace (and love, and understanding, and agreement, and inclusion and offering truth in love) does begin in the home, and those who receive it there can more easily give it in the world.
Pope Francis recently said that it is within the family that we first learn how to open ourselves to others and become good brothers and sisters. What we learn from them goes on to benefit society as a whole.
So it really does go back to trying hard and loving much.
And so, I revisit what I stated at the beginning of this column. My goal is that the phrase “She tried hard and loved much” can someday be put on my grave, and that it will be the truth.