Eulogy: He Served, Shared and Loved (originally titled Obituary for Micah A Maxwell, but I decided differently over concern for the “shock” factor…)
With little fanfare, my thirty-third birthday arrived and departed. It is one of many birthdays that isn’t marked by any significant accomplishment, celebratory achievement or milestone. However, leading up to the anniversary of my birth, I was especially moved by this particular birthday. I have finally been able to pinpoint what was so challenging to me about this year.
There are three significant life stories that have led to this particular letter and serve as the basis for my personal conflict and challenge. I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the short life of Tori Nakol Swoape, appreciating the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And the ministry of the Christ Jesus. Certainly, you are wondering how and why am I mentioning the three of these very different stories. Well, I’m glad you asked!!
I recently read a tweet, of which I couldn’t find the original source, that quoted the following: “Death has a 100% success rate.” Wow!! When I read that sobering thought, my mind went in a number of different directions. One of the ideas that hit home for me was from the perspective of my own life. I am now thirty-three years old. Have I reached the end of my life? Is this my last year on earth? Is God finished with me here and ready to call me home? These are just a few of the questions that raced through my mind. I have always acknowledged the fact that I was on God’s plan…but never stopped to consider my own home going. Even though I’ve written my will, signed all of my papers, purchased life insurance and pretty much have my affairs in order, I’ve never given serious consideration to my own death.
Several years ago while presenting leadership workshops, I can recall one of the activities that I facilitated for the participants. We talked about personal missions and what was important in our lives. I encouraged them to think about and write their own eulogy. To some, this may seem kind of odd, but it was an important activity. When it’s all said and done, what was it that we want to have said and done? If we don’t plan and write out those things that are important for us to accomplish, our chances of reaching those goals are greatly diminished.
A eulogy, in it’s most basic form, is simply writing or oration in honor of a deceased person. However, most of us think of a eulogy of a moving speech or profound sermon given at a funeral or celebration service. With that image in mind, it might be considered quite audacious or conceited of a person to write his or her own eulogy. I propose, however, with all humility, that while it may be mildly self-flattering, it can be simply be viewed as a modest post-evaluation of your greatest challenges and smallest achievements. I think of Jesus telling us in John 14:2 that He goes before us to prepare a place for us.
My writing ability and intellect are simply not able to come together in a compilation of words and format in such a way as to even be considered eulogy at the level each of us are accustomed to. There are a few words, however, that are very important to me that I think could fit somewhere in homage to this collection of nights and days into years referred to as my life.
The first of those is simply the word “serve.” Whenever I need motivation, I go to my iPod and select my “MLK” playlist. I have collected close to twenty hours of speeches and sermons by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and cherish opportunities to listen to his many spectacular orations. Among my favorites is his last speech given entitled I’ve Been To The Mountaintop often referred to as I See The Promised Land. In this speech, he shares his vision for the Civil Rights Movement but does not necessarily place himself in that vision. Many people saw this as him predicting his own death as he was assassinated the next day.
I won’t even attempt to analyze or summarize this magnificent speech but to simply say that I think it was among his best. I am most impacted by Dr. King’s dedication of his life to the service of others. While I am sure there were days and nights where he would have been willing to give it all up and walk away, he never did. I am certainly not a scholar on his work, but from what I do know, I am honored and grateful for his service on my (our) behalf.
He never stopped serving. He never stopped encouraging and pleading for us to learn to serve (and love) others. As a minister, he served, as a leader, a husband, a father, and a citizen. His service led to his greatest achievements and accolades. His service marks his permanent place in history and certainly led to his death as well. My name doesn’t even deserve to be on the same page as Dr. King’s and certainly not in the same paragraph. But as I look to model myself after one of my greatest heroes, in terms of embracing my opportunity and responsibility to serve, I am thankful for his example.
One of my greatest rewards in life thus far has been the blessing of serving others. I have learned so much through serving!! With man definitions for the word serve, I am most fond of the simple idea of being of use or to help persons. I don’t have room or time to list the many teachings that serving has taught me. However, when it is all said and done, I hope that people will be able to say that Micah served. Though his service may not have made sense and may have missed the mark, his efforts and intentions were that of service. He truly had a desire to simply serve others.
In addition to service, I am driven by the idea of sharing. From an early age, we were all taught to share, whether it was our toys or our time. The greatest example of sharing I can comprehend comes from God as he sent his son as a sacrifice for my (our) sins. (John 3:16) After a short life and even shorter-term of ministry, Jesus was convicted and crucified and shortly after resurrected. Throughout the scriptures, we learn of examples of how Jesus shared during his life in addition to his ultimate act of sharing…his death.
Jesus began sharing the word in the temple as a young boy. He shared teachings, friendship, food, mentorship, miracles, and his life to so many people. While there are plenty of lessons and commandments I take away from the life of Jesus, I was drawn to this context to sharing. My life has always been impacted by the sharing of others. As a child, growing up in poverty, I benefited from the benevolence of so many others as they shared clothes, food, vehicles and financial support to my family.
Moreover, as an adult, I have enjoyed my greatest contentment from quietly sharing my blessings with others. I don’t share that to brag and draw attention to my own benevolence, rather make a big deal out of the personal rewards of sharing. It seems like the more I share my “stuff” the simpler life is. The more I give the less stress I seem to have. So it is with this realization that I want people to be able to simply say, Micah shared. That statement serves as a resounding thank you to the many people that shared and invested in my life. There are countless people that reached out by request or by concern and met a critical need for my family and I. For someone to truly say that I shared with them, it will be an expression of gratitude from me to those blessings of sharing in my life.
Finally, a third word that I want to tell my story of life is love. Love carries so many meanings and ideas. There are many types, expressions, and analysis of love. Shortly before writing this letter, I experienced arguably the most emotional week of my entire life. A very close personal friend of mine, Tori Nakol Swoape, a 15-year-old girl, committed suicide. She hung herself, leaving her mother to discover her. Nothing about suicide or this particular situation makes sense or is explainable. Tori did not leave a suicide note leaving all of her friends, family, strangers and the police to question why did she do this. What led her to this decision. Why would a precious girl, who was deeply loved by many, feel that she had no other choice but to take her own life?
I have never cried so much in my life. I was angry. I was hurting. I tried to help her family to grieve, cope and function. I re-lived every other previous death that was close to me. I re-visited every difficult moment in the past when I had the audacity to question God about my life. Two thoughts helped me navigate this unimaginable situation. The first was that everyone that knew Tori couldn’t help but fall in love with her and secondly that no matter what led Tori to suicide, God still loved her and welcomed her with open arms. I don’t know that Tori woke up every day with the goal of loving everyone. I just think her spirit was so loving, people couldn’t help but feel her love.
I have learned that the power of love supersedes anything else. When a person commits to love others, both friends and enemies, nothing can stand in between. Though I struggle every day, I want to love others. Often I get in my own way of my heart’s sincere desire to love. But in the final analysis, I want to have loved like Jesus.
As I close this letter I reflect over my past thirty-three years. I have been blessed with so many amazing experiences, opportunities, and challenges. Each of these is a vital part of who I am today and is a critical element for God’s plans for my life. I have reached a point of maturity in my life where I am thankful for and appreciate every meaningful second of my life and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. The most sobering realization for me about this year is that my Savior was the same age when he departed this earth as a sinless human.
I can’t help but ask of myself whether I have served, shared and loved at the level that God has commanded and elected of me. If he were to call me home today, would he be able to embrace me saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” according to Matthew 25:21. I wish I knew the answer, but I regretfully suspect there would be much disappointment.
While the thought is disheartening, I am more motivated than ever to do more and better!! I am reminded of one of Dr. King’s speeches, Things We Must Do” when he said, “…do our jobs so well that nobody could do them better.” Today is a brand new day and even if I don’t get to finish today…I will have served, shared and loved every second of it! Say that for me.