I saw an article in the LA Times this week that caused me to do some serious thinking. It was a report from Salem, Oregon about thousands of unclaimed remains of mental patients and others who lived in a state hospital.
The article began,”the two copper canisters once shared the darkness of a decaying and abandoned room at Oregon State Hospital with about 3,500 others. Each etched with a distinct number; the containers held the unclaimed ashes of mental patients and others who had lived and died at the hospital and other state institutions.”
The containers were discovered in 2004. They were piled in a shed. The “canisters were corroded, some tinted green from oxidation, some fused together from water damage.”
“No. 1864 held the remains of an 11-year old boy committed as a ‘feeble-minded epileptic.’ He died in 1935. No. 2664 contained the ashes of a grandfather committed for senility. He died in 1941.” The article went on to focus on recent efforts to find the family members of those held in those containers.
Although the thought of 3500 people being cremated and stashed on a shelf in a shed is disturbing to say the very least, it was the title of the article that caused the deep thinking. “Shelves of Forgotten Souls.”
If you think about our own mortality, you might soon realize that not only are we “but dust and to dust we will return,” but that the memory of our lives is very limited also. Only the very most famous among us will have their memories shared down through history. For most of us, in just two generations or so the details of our lives will be fuzzy at best. Having a real impact on others and leaving a legacy for succeeding generations is difficult to do.
But consider the words of Hebrews 11. When discussing the faith of Abel, the Bible says that he was righteous, that God testified about his gifts and that “he being dead yet speaks.”
“Shelves of forgotten souls” versus “He being dead yet speaks”. My guess is that you would like to be in that lattercategory. And the great news this week is that we can all leave a lasting mark on the world by simply doing what God has called us to do. When we share His gospel with others, when we care for each other, when we invest in people with Godly passion we are shoring up for ourselves a memory that will speak for all eternity.
I am confident that the impact of our lives will not be counted with dollar signs or based on titles or possessions. As Jim Elliott once said “Only one life will soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Abel did that which was right and the Bible declares that he still speaks today. One hundred years from now, others could recall your name and rehearse your testimony and declare again that “So and so is dead, but still speaks.”
Let’s be intentional this week and build just such a testimony!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel