Have You Planned For Your Funeral?
We recently attended a memorial service for an elderly friend in our church. But he wasn’t a typical elderly churchgoer. More than half the people in our church are under 25. I’m an “oldie” at 30! Aside from his wife, Howard was the only regular member over age 70. But he wasn’t just a “member.” He was the grandfather of our whole community.
Since his death, no one can stop talking about him and his impact in their life. Many, including us, weren’t even particularly close to him. But our interactions with him are so memorable. He was warm and wise, humorous and humble. Always so interested in the other person, and always had something interesting and encouraging to say. He knew Greek and Hebrew, studied the Bible voraciously, and also taught water color painting, played the piano, and sang. He probably had many other talents and accomplishments that I don’t know about, because he didn’t talk about himself much.
Before his death, he let his family know that in lieu of a funeral he wanted his friends to have a BYOB dance party.
I don’t know anything about his finances. He was a social worker and was retired by the time I met him. He certainly understood the Secret to Financial Freedom and inflated his usefulness instead of his lifestyle. However he handled his money, his memorial service left me aspiring to leave a legacy like Howard’s.
The point of all this money stuff is so we can actually live. Howard lived a full life up until the day he fell unconscious. He had a degenerative muscle disease during his adult life, but he saved his energy for serving others. The day before his collapse, he went over to a friend’s house and grilled steak for the family. During an recent week-long church trip he volunteered to give an in-depth Bible teaching for those who weren’t able to go on the trip.
His life was the epitome of real worth.
We can talk Vanguard vs. Betterment all day. We can talk Roth vs. Traditional all day. We can talk Minimalism vs. Pragmatism, Classic vs. Extreme Frugality, Budgeting vs. Tracking all day and night long.
These are all helpful philosophies, tools, and practices—if we keep them in their proper place. They are servants, not masters. They are the pieces, not the purpose. You could get all the financial stuff right and leave an outrageous inheritance, but if your family hates you, it’s worth less than nothing. Worst investment ever.
It’s also often said that on your death bed, you won’t wish you worked more hours or drove a nicer car. That’s a true and lovely sentiment, but what are we supposed to do with it? How do we live today wisely and well while also planning for the future?
I believe the answer lies in diversifying your life’s portfolio, leaving both real and net worth behind. The net worth could be easily consumed within a short period of time. Real worth is something that can last much longer, even for eternity.
Howard’s passing made me realize I don’t want to be moderate about my real worth legacy. I want to leave my kids a modest amount of money (maybe), and a host of friends celebrating a life that changed theirs. I want my family to have a hard time finding a venue big enough for my memorial service. I want a sea of youth 50 years my junior dancing at my final going away party. I want people deciding to turn back to God as they contemplate how I reflected the love of Jesus.
In reality, these are the details are Howard’s legacy. Mine will be different. But I certainly want it to reflect the spirit of his: that countless people felt deeply loved and drawn to Jesus by him.
I’m nowhere near having built such a legacy. And I know my legacy-building can’t be about me. That’s the irony—if I want this all for my own glory then it should never happen. That’s not how love works: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Real worth isn’t about what I’m doing, it’s about how that helps someone else.
Howard planned for his funeral every day, with kind and encouraging words and thoughtful acts of service. By sharing about God’s love with grocery baggers, and teaching New Testament Greek classes to punks like me. By faithfully praying for hundreds of people each week, and making dinner for his friends. He will be greatly missed this side of Paradise, but his legacy is thriving.
Are you planning for your funeral?