I read these notices for several reasons. Natch, I want to see if anyone I know has died. And I also want to see if there’s any hint about whether each departed soul will be spending a Christ-filled or Christ-free eternity.
There are no guarantees, of course, especially considering that few of the people featured here have written their own obituaries. In my mother’s case, for example, my oldest sister let me direct its writing by our funeral home rep. Being unsaved, I selected the ubiquitous phrase “born to eternal life” only as a nod to wishful thinking; and it never occurred to me to mention that she had considered herself a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I suspect that’s often the case these days, especially with the elderly who no longer have a church home to keep the connection fresh in the minds of unbelieving survivors.
Still, many obituaries provide some clues about the dead person’s current location. Certainly explicit language about the individual going home to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a good sign, as is active membership in a solid Christian church. But of course only the Lord knows an individual’s heart, and whether he or she is His child.
Which brings me to the other major reason I am such a faithful reader of our local death notices: The only real tragedy in this life is spending the next – which is to say all eternity – separated from the Lord, in what He described as “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).
Reading the death notices reminds me of how many people are apparently headed towards this end, because they refused the Lord’s gift of eternal life – a gift requiring only that we repent of what He has said is sin, and trust in Him to have paid our sin debt on the cross. It reminds me to pray for the lost, to ask for the Lord to use today’s sorrow to produce tomorrow’s new believers, and to redouble my personal efforts to reach those who have yet to make Christ their own.