Two days ago I blogged about some things I want to have happen at my funeral. Today I’m blogging about the Bible verse that I want carved on my tombstone. At this rate, on Saturday’s blog I will reveal how I’m dispersing my opera videos upon my death . . . unless I just decide to keep it simple and give them all to my brother-in-law Mark. Let me just clearly state for the record that I am feeling fine – that I have no plans to do any sky diving or sword swallowing or any other death-defying deeds in the near future – and that as far as I know, I’m going to be around for some time to come, and I really hope I’m right about that. But both Kathy and I have certainly been reminded of our mortality this summer – not the worst thing for someone to experience – and it really changes the way you see things.
The most recent rerun of the Oprah Winfrey Show is a perfect case in point. It told the incredible story of two families brought together by a horrendous tragedy when a van carrying students and staff from Taylor University was involved in a terrible accident. One family was told that their daughter Whitney had been killed in the accident, while another family was keeping a constant vigil at the bedside of what they believed was their daughter Laura, badly injured in the crash. Five weeks later, it was discovered that a terrible mistake had been made back at the scene of the crash – and it was Laura who in fact had been killed and Whitney was the young woman slowly recovering in that hospital room. So suddenly one family learned that in fact they had lost their daughter while the other family learned that the daughter for whom they had held a funeral four weeks earlier was in fact alive. Talk about real life resembling a Twilight Zone episode.
Had this occurred with two typical American families, it almost certainly would have been a terribly awkward, painful and even ugly situation. But these two particular families handled this tragedy compounded by absurd human error with such grace and sensitivity; the longer the story unspooled today the bigger the lump in my throat became. (It was the size of a bowling ball by the end of the hour.) One of the most moving moments of all came towards the end when Oprah asked Don van Ryn to describe his reaction when his cell phone rang just hours after the accident and it was an ambulance-chasing lawyer offering his services. Van Ryn explained how it had literally never crossed his mind to bring some sort of lawsuit over the accident or the mixup because absolutely nothing of real value would be gained from that. He then quoted to Oprah and the audience this remarkable verse from the Old Testament. . . Micah 6:8 . . . “What is it that the Lord requires but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” He said that he had come to believe that life is so much better when we are living in love and mercy rather than in anger and bitterness, and although we don’t see enough mercy in our modern world, that is the way he was choosing to live, even in the midst of such sorrow.
You could hear a pin drop as he told this story, and I found myself reminded all over again of how much I love these simple and beautiful words – and I couldn’t help but imagine what the world would be like if more people lived their lives as Micah directed. My only hesitancy in requesting them for my tombstone is that I really don’t live out Micah’s words the way I should or could. . . so perhaps I should include an addendum such as “Well anyway, he tried.”
pictured above: Don van Ryn on the Oprah Winfrey Show. The two families involved in this tragedy have collaborated on a book titled “Mistaken Identity” which I am very anxious to read.