Friday, March 17, 2006


"How long after you are gone will we realize the ripples you left in the pool of life?"
Such is a paraphrase of a quote I saw on the obituary page of our local newspaper this week. I would like to have had the direct quote, but alas, we have already taken our recycling in.

A Google search along the same lines led me to this quote:
"Man is but a pebble, thrown into the pool of life. A splash, a bubble, and it vanishes. But the ripple that it causes grows wider and wider 'till it reaches the far bank." (Sir Thomas More)

As I have posted before, I read the obits regularly. In the past, I lived in cities where newspapers were published daily; here, it is weekly. That is unfortunate, because there have been several occasions where an acquaintance of ours has died and had their funeral before we even heard anything about it. Still, I guess my interest in the obituaries stems from being a pastor's wife and the experiences thereof, as well as my advancing age of 51.

Death is universal, but customs and traditions surrounding it can be quite different, depending on where you live. Up here in Maine, if you die in the winter, you may have a funeral but you won't be buried until the spring, because that is when the ground thaws. Talk about closure - can you imagine having to deal with someone's death in early winter and not being able to have the graveside service until months later? That might be why cremations are a popular choice here.

But, oh, a rural southern funeral is a class unto itself. Some funerals I attended in the South were moving and poignant. At other times, I felt it could have been done with a little more dignity. I remember grocery shopping in a Tennessee Kroger's once, and as I passed by the floral department I noticed some funeral wreaths on display. One in particular caught my eye. It was a large spray on an easel, and applied to the wreath was a toy plastic telephone with its attached receiver perched above it and the cord winding its way down to the base. And on the red satin ribbon I read: "JESUS CALLED." I kid you not.

The quote with which I began this post, though, made me think. The deceased's family had bought this space on the obituary page to honor their matriarch who died a couple of years ago. They knew that their mother had been a great influence during her life, and they threw the question out there like one of those pebbles skipping across the lake.

"How long after you are gone will we realize the ripples you left in the pool of life?"

I can think of two major questions that haunt most people when they consider their own deaths. (1) What happens now? (2) What effect has my life had on the world?

Ed has always had this comment on his years of ministry: "The people I have come in contact with either love me or hate me. But they will never forget me." He says that whether his presence and teaching generated renewal or anger in his churches, it didn't matter. Those people will be forever changed because their paths crossed with his. He says that with each encounter we have, those involved in the encounter will never be the same because of the encounter. We have shared a part of ourselves.

It would be nice to say that we had great power and influence in the world during our lifetimes. Nonetheless, I have an inkling we have had more power and influence than we realize. Little by little, we sink to the bottom, but our ripples go on and on.

There's nothing like an obituary page to give you something to wrap your brain around.

1 comment:

Joy said...

Makes me think of a few of the people who have "rippled" through my life--Mrs. Perry who baked us personalized birthday cakes each year, teachers like Mrs. Weeks and Dr. Hazlewood, and Steve Cohen, who was a great mentor and friend. Plus my sister, of course!