Rev. Sam Gutierrez
A few years ago, some friends and I toured the home of the multi-talented artist Prince. We waited outside patiently while a volunteer told us about the artist, his home/studio, and how he built it with the intent of opening it to the public after his death.
After passing through a door where Prince’s penetrating eyes were painted above the frame, we entered an open and light-filled space that was said to be the place where he felt most comfortable. On one side of the large space was his private eating area and on the second floor was a bird cage housing two white doves (Majesty and Divinity) whose quiet cries were spilling into the space below.
The tour guide asked us to observe a moment of silence and pay our respects to Prince, whose ashes were in a tiny purple box on a podium in the center of the room. I was surprised because although I had anticipated seeing lots of purple during my tour (I was not disappointed), I had not anticipated standing in the presence of Prince himself. As I stared down at the little purple box, a disturbing thought flooded my heart, “That’s how we all end up—as ashes in a box.”
Reflecting on my experience later that night, I had to be honest with myself about my own fear of dying. While I journaled, I uncovered an even deeper fear—my fear of being forgotten. Prince will be remembered for a long time. He had an impressive studio and home, starred in movies, and gave an iconic super bowl performance in addition to his countless records, accolades and awards. But what about me? What have I done? What will be left behind when I die? Will anyone remember me?
The sad truth is, in a short period of a few generations, almost everyone is forgotten. Maybe some of us keep detailed records of our family tree, but even then, all that might be left of a person’s entire lived existence are some pictures and a few scattered details. It’s enough to make a person fall into despair and wrestle with questions of legacy, meaning, and how to live a truly significant life.
As I thought about all of this, I remembered a story when a criminal hanging on a cross next to Jesus turned to Jesus and said “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) I had never given much thought to that criminal’s request, but now the Spirit was whispering in my heart, “That’s the key!”
If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that sometimes I am motivated by my fear of being forgotten. I am desperately attempting to create something that will last. But my anxiety settles when I remember that there is Someone who will remember me—someone who will remember my name and who I was. Someone who knows me and knows everything about me. Strangely, I have much in common with that thief hanging next to Jesus.
Lately, whenever I feel fear about my own mortality and my place in the history books, I pray the prayer of a criminal, “Jesus, remember me.” I can feel my fear start to diminish as the Spirit confirms deep down in my heart--Jesus will.