Recently I had a truly once in a lifetime experience. I attended my 50th high school reunion. Even though I took the time to study classmates’ pictures in my 12th grade yearbook prior to the event, in many cases it was not until I heard the name or saw it on a nametag that I saw that 12th grade face hiding inside their cheekbones. Between pounds, gray hair, and no hair, Father Time had brought about many changes. Some classmates could have been in a one-person lineup and I still would not have been able to pick them out successfully.
As much fun as the event turned out to be, there was a sobering cloud which lingered over the event for me—even before I got there. Three days before the reunion I received a phone call from a member of the planning committee. Knowing that I am a minister, she mentioned that near the beginning of the event there would be a time of memoriam for our classmates who had died since graduation. “Will you be willing to offer a prayer on behalf of those who have died?” she asked. Honored to be asked, I quickly said yes.
Immediately after I hung up I began to think about my assignment. What would I pray for someone who has already died? I asked God to guide my thoughts and by Saturday PM I knew what I would pray. When I arrived, I quickly looked in the program to see which of my classmates had passed away. I was stunned. Sixty-one names were listed—approximately 15% of our Senior Class. Several of them I’d gone to school with all twelve years. Memories flashed across my mind, followed by smiles of joy over the fun we had shared. Yet in the midst of thoughts of joy, my heart hurt deeply as I realized they were gone from us.
When the time came for the memorial prayer, I prayed, “Father, thank you for the opportunity of knowing our classmates who have died, and for the opportunity of doing life with them. We thank you for the memories that their names bring to mind. We pray for their families, asking that You will comfort them in their loss—especially those for whom the pain might be recent. May their deaths remind us that life is brief and the time of our end is uncertain. May we commit tonight to affect the greatest good with the time we have left. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.”
The certainty of death, coupled with the uncertainty of the time of death, is indeed a sobering thought. I’m glad I was asked to pray the memorial prayer that night, because it has caused me to ponder deeply about the life I have left to live. How will I spend the rest of my life? Because of the uncertainty of life versus death, will I live it in the spirit of Ecclesiastes—to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow I may die? Or will I live it in the spirit of Micah 6:8—“He [God] has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” After all, tomorrow we may just live.
Should I live…what then? Definitely it’s a question worth pondering, no matter which high school reunion is coming up next.