, Corbin, KY

October 4, 2013

A lasting image


CORBIN — What picture should I have for my obituary? Should it be my barely alive death-bed photo? Could I use my dashing and dapper ordination picture as a 26-year-old? Should my widow and children choose a picture they like from somewhere in between?

Once in a while I’ll notice a young picture among those listed as deceased and my first thought is “How unfortunate that someone so young has died.” But then I glance a little closer at the column to read “age 86.”

I think the picture is quite deceptive and somewhat miss-leading. Yet as I think about it, why publish our final and worst appearance as representative of our whole life?

 Of course another thought is “who really cares”. We might be relatively young (what does that mean – 40? 60?) when we die. Our surviving kin might feel a sense of obligation in making our final image our best.

I will have to admit, some of the obituary photo’s are pitifully haggard and disturbing; the death-bed pose not doing much to compliment but rather compete for haunting Halloween masks.

 In the overall scheme of things, what those people think who are scanning the daily obituary listings is of little or no consequence. You and I are God’s children, beautiful beyond any earthly-bodily beauty; and therein are destined to be so forever more. God is the origin and source of all beauty — “that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.. to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” [Ps. 27:4]; yet not so much a physical beauty — “beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” [I Peter 3:4]

As God’s children, living in his presence (a holy communion) we share in Our Father’s beauty. Although such divine endowment may lack conspicuous evidence, upon closer acquaintance it is readily seen. Peace and joy radiate from those who are holy.

God has in mind for us to share his shining beauty, “that you may become blameless and pure children of God…to shine like stars in the universe.” [Phil. 2:14]

Then again as Daniel [12:3] puts it, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,…like the stars forever and ever.”

An inevitable sadness will befall each of us who might seek to elongate the physical beauty of our youth; destining us to be sure losers.

So, if our companions on earth think we are physically beautiful or ugly, of what value is their judgment? In a brief time their life and judgment will be gone as well as all obituary pictures. May we never forget who we are — children of God, bright and beautiful forever. That is our true and lasting image.

The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology blog at inspirationsandideas