Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


You're Never Too Young to Consider Your Epitaph

Artwork from yesterday: Uncle Mel's epitaph verse
Yesterday I sat before the coffin of my Great-Great-Uncle Melvin, a man who watched kamikaze pilots dive for the deck of his ship during WWII and providentially miss. A man who graduated high school even after his father left him to make his way in the world as a hired farm hand--at 12 years of age. A man who did everything from pastoring to jet engine testing. A man who celebrated 100 years of life just a few months ago, and, when he realized his memory was failing, decided that meant he needed to memorize more Scripture. A man who read a chapter of the Bible every day of his life. A man who wanted his epitaph to list not his accomplishments, but what was accomplished in him: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

100 years--and he lived them so faithfully. As a 26 year old sitting before his coffin, beginning my race as he crossed the finish line, I had to ask myself if I was on track to being the kind of 100 year old that Uncle Mel was. Because I want to be. And as a young person, it is easy to get bogged down in daily, seemingly important goals and forget the marathon goal: if God grants me old age, I want to be an old woman who still faithfully loves and follows Jesus. 100 years puts things into perspective.

So here are the top lessons I've learned from my 100 year old Uncle Mel:

1. Unabashedly love the people God puts in your life.

He was my Great-Great-Uncle, and the only Great-Great-Uncle I even ever knew. He could have categorized me as a distant niece whom he was fine with seeing now and again at family reunions, yet he and Aunt Ina and his whole family chose to invest in my family and treated me with such love each time we were together that he made me feel precious to him. He was not stingy with his love...he loved wholeheartedly and unabashedly. He risked relationships even when he might get nothing out of them. He went out of his way for people, because he loved whomever God had him cross paths with.

2. Bitterness is not worth it.

His father, for various reasons, moved to the East Coast when Uncle Mel was a young boy and started a new family. Uncle Mel had every reason to indulge bitterness at his father, yet when as a man he heard his father was dying, he scrounged gas ration coupons to drive cross-country to make sure his father heard the Gospel before he died.

Uncle Mel's mother died when he was young, and two of his brothers died one right after the other just when WWII was ending, and he could have shaken his fist at God and lived a shriveled life of anger. I have met wizened old men who chose just that path. But not Uncle Mel. He trusted and loved God implicitly, and although I'm sure he walked the valley of grief in a real and human way, he never allowed his heart to be walled in with bitterness. He chose forgiveness and trust instead.

3. Spend time with God every day.

While in the Navy in WWII, his destroyer took part in the Battle of Okinawa. Uncle Mel had no idea if he would survive from one day to the next. But one day during that time he made a promise to God that if he did survive, he would read a chapter of the Bible every day of his life. And by all accounts from his son {who heard this story as a young boy while watching him read the Bible} to his son-in-law {who watched him in the last years of his life reading each day}, he was faithful to that promise. And not as a ritual that he was compulsively bound to, but because he truly loved his Jesus and wanted that precious time with Him each day. As a result, the Gospel was profoundly important to him, and even through his death the Gospel was preached and souls were saved!

I rejoice that Uncle Mel is in Heaven, and I thank God that I had a spiritual giant like him in my life for as long as I did. It may take me 100 more years to implement all the lessons I learned from him, but I honestly cannot think of a better life goal than that.


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