I do not miss ministry that much, but I do miss some things. I miss preaching to a congregation, teaching, honest dialogue with teenagers, but most of all, I miss funerals. In fact, I’ve met some people over the years for whom I secretly longed to conduct one… I joke, of course!!
I found conducting a funeral to be such a blessed opportunity. It was a rich chance to share remembrances with a family, lovely intimacies and a patchwork quilt of legacy. What did this good soul stand for? What were they all about? What was their essence, their center, their core?
A person’s legacy must be captured in stories. Legacy defies facts - Facts cannot capture the beauty or goodness, even greatness, of a soul. I love listening to these stories. I find it a scared chore to weave them together into a larger story. I so enjoy being the chosen storyteller. It is a role I believe to be holy, and I treat it as such.
I believe aging naturally ignites within us a questioning of our own legacy. What will we be remembered for? What will be the tone and texture and truths of our own stories? Reflecting on legacy can be satisfying, yet also sobering, stunning but also ordinary. Considering one’s legacy is good for the soul.
Unlike Presidents, who, we are told, ponder long and hard over their role in history, we are left to contemplate if we made a difference, no matter how small or incidental. Our scope is not the history books, but the hearts and minds of family and friends, and a few accidental tourists in our lives. Nevertheless, we tackle the assignment with the same earnestness of a President, and probably the same level of anxiety as to our inability to control the results.
Aging has poked and prodded my soul into taking some time to consider my own personal impact – The good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Some of what I’ve learned has been distressing, some impressive. It is an odd mix, as I suspect it would be for most of us.
I’m not as funny as I once was, or as light hearted or positive. I am, however, deeper and kinder and less arrogant. I am surprisingly less confident, shy even, and have become a bit of a recluse. I was always such a people pleaser, and looked for the spotlight every chance I got. I am now quite careful and cautious about when and where and with whom I share my time.
I have grown firmer in my doubts, braver in my questions, and yet far more faithful than ever before. I struggle with the institution of Church to a much greater degree than I did. I am appalled by those who claim such a certainty of religion, and who wish to march in place in the quicksand of their own beliefs. I am quickly irritated by the petty, mean spiritedness of so many within the church over such trivial things, things which distract from the mission of the church.
My assessment of myself has become simpler. I really have no idea of what my legacy will be, but I remain hopeful it will be someone who was compassionate and creative and sought to inspire. I hope to be remembered as a passionate, bleeding heart liberal who challenged people to be their best. I hope I encouraged and actualized change. I hope I lifted up a few good people to higher ground.
This legacy investigation will continue. I will keep you posted.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.