In 1985, Robert Lincoln Beckwith died at age 81. Hardly anyone noticed and certainly his passing did not make national news (but he is in wikipedia.) Perhaps we should have since he was the last direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln. The line of Abe Lincoln has died out. No one is left.
Once, many decades ago, I was in Indiana for a short while. It was the first I’d ever sojourned (I like that word) into Indiana. I was hopefully courting my soon to be wife who attended college there. Somehow one day, I wandered into a cemetery. Those places don’t spook me. (Well maybe at night they would…) This cemetery was very old, unlike anything I’d seen in Alaska so I walked among the gravestones reading them. Eventually I found a young Mom and her two newborn children buried side by side, consigned to the dirt on a day in the mid 1800’s. Probably, they all died at childbirth. Does anyone remember them today? Maybe a descendant with a genealogy passion will find their death records and will then make the effort to find the graveyard. (Don’t call me. I don’t remember where it was precisely.) I think I can safely say that today there is no one alive who knew them personally and there is little chance that anyone is still living who even knew anyone who knew them personally. The memories of this Mother and her babies have faded from this earth.
Funerals are sad enough but suppose someone would stand up and say during the service “In less than 200 years, no one will be alive on earth who knew the deceased. Nor will there be anyone alive who knew anyone who had even met the dearly departed. By that time, all personal memories will be gone, buried with the now dead people who had them.” Such things are rarely said at funerals. It’s not nice to say them.
It’s true of course and it should remind us of how fleeting are our lives and insignificant our impact on the earthly stage. It exposes the kinds of things people say at funerals to be empty and silly. Here’s one.
“Don’t weep at my grave,
For I am not there,
I’ve a date with a butterfly
To dance in the air.
I’ll be singing in the sunshine,
Wild and free,
Playing tag with the wind,
While I’m waiting for thee.”
Let’s be honest. Unless Jesus is indeed who He claimed to be, poetry about butterflies means nothing. Jesus alone offers eternal life and eternal life alone gives meaning to this life. I will not be remembered some day. Among the many billions who have stepped on earth’s soil and are now buried beneath it, my existence will attract little interest. If the world barely notes the final eradication of the generations of Abraham Lincoln, who am I to do better? Even if history celebrates my time on earth for some reason, who cares?
God does. He cares, remembers and gives eternal purpose to our lives in Christ Jesus. We are eternal beings doing small things that have infinite value. Nothing is forgotten except our sins. Everything matters. Every word and thought and action, they are all recorded and remembered and some have a powerful, eternal impact.
Unless this is true, what’s the point? Why live just to live?
Thankfully, it is true and gives significance to the very short lives of newborns. They are not dead but live forever. They were merely passing through and didn’t get off the plane but to get a drink of water. We were fortunate to greet them, however briefly. Stop by the river of life-giving water when you get to the New Jerusalem (heaven.) They will be there.
Revelation 22) Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, shining like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb 2 through the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life, which produces twelve crops of fruit, bearing its fruit each month. The tree’s leaves are for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more. They won’t need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shine on them, and they will rule forever and always. (NASB)
PS: I’ll meet Abraham Lincoln some day. He might even know who I am.