How will I be remembered? That’s a thought-provoking question that may hit us as we come to the end of our lives, but here’s a more sobering version of that question:
Will I be remembered?
One boy asked that question, not because he was coming to the end of his life, but to the end of life as he knew it. In 1897, William Elliott was living in the Sunderland Orphan Asylum in England. He sang in the parish choir, and we can assume he enjoyed it because he was the leading boy of the choir. But those days were coming to an end because William would soon be turning 14 and leaving the orphanage. The rule of the orphanage was that a boy had to leave when he turned 14 and make his own way in the world.
Life for him was about to change and he had no idea what that meant or what it would entail. Heading into an unknown future, he wanted to be remembered.
We know this because, in March 2022, the parish church William had sung in so long ago was being renovated. In the renovation process, a hand-written note was discovered that William had stashed behind a metal plate in the choir stall—a note that lay undiscovered for 125 years.
“Dear friend, whoever finds this paper think of William Elliott who had two months and two weeks and four days on the 11 of August 1897 [He was counting the days until he turned 14.]. Whoever you are that finds this paper don’t tear it up or throw it away…
“Keep it in remembrance of me, W Elliott… I was the leading boy of this choir…
“I love you if you love me.”
Most of us assume we will be remembered, at least by family. In an objective sense, we’ll be remembered by public documents like birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, and by spam callers trying to reach us about our car’s warranty even after death.
Being remembered is one thing, but how we will be remembered is something altogether different—and vastly more important.
I’m not referring to a funeral eulogy. Nice things are always said in a funeral eulogy. Eulogy is from the Greek and literally means “good words.” No matter how awful a person was, we still find something nice to say, even if it’s nothing more than, “He always wore clean socks.”
Long after I’m gone, I still want to be remembered as someone who loved Jesus and showed that love by loving others. I want my legacy to be one that was passed on: others saw the love of Christ in me and embraced that love … those people showed the love of Christ to others and those people embraced Christ … and on and on. That’s what matters.
Eternity will not remember how many Bible studies I wrote, how many sermons I preached, or how many chimichangas I consumed over my lifetime, but it will remember how many people I influenced for the kingdom of God. That will be remembered because those people will be standing right next to me.
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another” (John 13:34).
“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
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Thanks for the daily encouragement Lynn, I truly appreciate it and you.
Thanks Lynn, your column makes me be a better Christian.