There’s nothing particularly unique about it. It’s a fairly standard navy blue blazer. It hangs in my closet with a clear plastic protector over the shoulders and a disc of cedar around the neck of the hanger. I don’t wear it often – we are mostly business casual at the office these days – but, when I do, they are always there. Every time I put it on they are folded up and jumbled together, in no particular order, down in the bottom of my inside coat pocket. Some are single sheets, while others are multiple pages folded together, but, they all have one thing in common; each one represents a life lived and brought to an end. A small paper memorial. Some tell of a long life and stories that often times I’ve never heard, that paint a word picture of a life well-lived. Some speak of shorter lives with fewer stories to tell. Some just list the dates and times and the hymns or who spoke. There may be a poem or a favorite verse. There is usually a photo with a lost smile. But, above all, each one reminds me of a friend, family member or a close relative of one I love.
Cancer. Heart attack. Accident. Overdose. Murder. They are all there. The emptiness and pain of their loss now muted by time. For the most part they never knew each other, but now they hang together in the pocket of my blue jacket like a tiny graveyard of fabric and thread – a quiet memorial to those who have impacted my life and have left this world for the next.
I know it’s cliche’ to say “life is short”, yet after you’ve lived more than half of your life the realization sinks in – it really is. You start to lose friends and the people you’ve loved and looked up to – each one with a unique impact on your life. Each one a precious memory. Beautiful lives condensed down to a couple of sheets of paper and a fading recollection.
So take a moment and think about the people you are impacting. Have you ever considered the difference you might be making in their lives? Will they be better people because they knew you? Will the way you lived your life help guide or change theirs? Will they be the ones sitting in your memorial service?
I think these are things worth considering because when you are finished here, all that will be left is the impact that you made on others. You can’t take anything else with you.
And – if you’re like me, you may also be wondering just whose jacket pocket you’ll end up in.
“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties.
After all, everyone dies—
so the living should take this to heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2