My grandfather passed away over Christmas last year.
At his funeral, I delivered the eulogy. Here is a portion of what I said:
What can I say about this man? What can I say about a man I’ve always wanted to be just like? What can I say about a man who shaped my worldview and understanding of God more than anyone else? What can I say about a man I named my own son after?
He had a significant impact on my life. You can read my entire eulogy here.
During one of my last conversations with my grandfather, before he got sick on Thanksgiving, he made a statement to me that I found to be incredibly profound.
He said, “We live our entire lives under the shadow of death.”
While I didn’t tell him at the time, I found the statement to be deep and life-enhancing when understood correctly. In fact, merely hearing it brought about further resolve of my desire to live a minimalist life.
Consider its weight: We all live under the shadow of death.
That statement has been true in 2020 maybe more than any other year as local and national media regularly report death counts from all over the world and daily public service announcements can be heard over the airwaves asking us to act responsibly.
But death is not new to us—despite the unprecedented times we live in.
In fact, we live every day with the understanding that it may be our last. Not in a morbid, depressing way (shockingly so), but in the awareness and reality of understanding life.
Every time I get in my car to drive to work or the grocery store, I know, instinctively, something tragic could happen to me or another driver. I also know, full-well, that even if I don’t leave my house, a medical emergency could befall me or someone I love. I am not immune from a cancer diagnosis, a heart attack, a stroke, a brain aneurysm.
I have plenty of loved ones who unexpectedly received life-changing news, or were tragically stricken.
As grandpa said, “Life is lived under this shadow of death.” The reality of it surrounds us every day of our lives. And even if we don’t have a close, loved one who recently passed away, we almost certainly know someone who has.
Nobody escapes life alive.
But somehow it seems, human beings are able to both live with the knowledge of death and somehow function apart from it.
Death is inevitable. And yet, I am able to live wholly today, focused on the present and the future, as if it won’t happen to me today. I am aware of coming death, but not paralyzed by it. It is a fascinating paradox and ability of the human mind when you think about.
While the shadow of death does not paralyze me, in the quiet moments of life, the shadow motivates me and sharpens the wisest among us.
Only a fool lives as if their life will never end.
We receive one life to live, with a limited number of days and a limited number of resources with which to accomplish our purpose. Almost all of the resources we consume during our journey are limited: money, time, energy, space, focus, capacity, even the relationships we are able to pursue.
This reality of our finite nature is an incredibly important truth. It is one we should intentionally choose to focus on each day. Because when we do, it changes our actions, our motivations, and our pursuits. It changes us:
Because life is finite, we make better choices.
Because time is finite, we spend our days on things that matter.
Because money is finite, we spend it on pursuits that will outlast us.
Because our energy is finite, we choose carefully where we focus our passions.
Because our days are finite, we value relationships and love.
Because I live under the shadow of death, I will choose a minimalist life and reject the empty promise of consumerism and what this world offers. I will live for greater pursuits.
Life will end—indeed. And that realization should affect the decisions I make each day. But rather than causing me to throw in the towel and give up on life, this shadow of death will spark hope and resolve and passion to spend each remaining day of my life making the most of it.