The Joy of the Present Moment
On a recent visit to my mother, she handed me a newspaper clipping of an obituary of someone I didn’t know. I looked at her puzzled. She proceeded to tell me to “just read it.” The first sentence drew laughter. I felt disrespectful, but I couldn’t help it. As I continued to read my laughter got louder. Soon mother and I joined together laughing at this unorthodox announcement of death. Below is the obituary with altered names, dates, and places.
Richard Edward “Ed” Ramsey, Jr., 59, of Wetumpka, left this earth August 24, 2021 like any decent lawyer would – arguing with his doctor. Ed was born January 10, 1962. His beloved parents, Richard Edward Ramsey, Sr. and Samantha Atwood Ramsey, instilled in him from a young age the importance of patience, temperance, and good manners. None of it took. He was too passionate, and at times too inebriated, to be bridled by the conventions of traditional southern social etiquette.
His entire life, Ed was filled with a deep sense of duty to protect others. He often employed unorthodox, albeit ingenious methods to pursue justice and fairness. As a child, Ed did everything possible to look after his older sisters Denise and Carol. This equated to biting any potential suitor he deemed undeserving of them until he reached middle school. Those who knew him in his adolescence can attest to his willingness to throw school bullies through lockers and into toilets for mistreating others. Naturally, Ed later attended the University of Alabama School of Law to broaden his ability to advocate for others. He was known for his remarkable oral arguments and litigation skills. Although he enraged a great number of prosecutors over the years, Ed successfully kept 9 people from capital punishment during his tenure. It’s also worth noting he disappeared far more than ten times as many DUIs.
Very few people in history have won an argument against Ed. His love and appreciation for his wife, Susan, was demonstrated by the four entire disagreements in which he conceded defeat. He was wise enough to avoid debate with his daughter, Roxie, who could wreck his defense strategy by hugging his neck. He found his step-daughters, Catherine and Erica, and grandchildren, Gail, Monica, Joshua, and Kyle, too sweet to ever disagree with.
In spite of his ferocity in the courtroom, Ed was a kind-hearted and affectionate man who adored his family and his church. His encyclopedic knowledge, unending compassion, and collection of mustard-stained ties have left an immeasurable impact on his loved ones and his community.
A viewing will be held at Kilgore Funeral home Saturday, August 28 from 5-7 pm. Funeral services will be held at St. Andrew Episcopal Church on Sunday, August 29 at 3 pm with graveside services to follow. The family humbly requests that anyone wishing to memorialize Ed sit on their porch, preferably with their dog, and enjoy a cold beer in his honor.
What a hoot, huh? This man strikes me as having enjoyed life. I couldn’t help but wonder though: Was the obituary written by the deceased before his death? Was this man a prankster and his family wanted to honor him with laughter? Did he even have a dog?
On a more serious note, the obituary made me take pause. How do we want to be remembered? If we were to write our own obituary, what would we say about ourselves? What would others say about us? More importantly, what would God say about us?
Find the Merry
Years ago when I went through my cancer journey, death was often on my mind. It’s a natural response, I think, when diagnosed with a devastating illness. I heard a television interview with a cancer patient who had end stage disease. He shared some simple, yet profound observations. “We all die,” he said. “Each of us faces the same realities. Namely, that we have today – the joy of the present moment.” He’s right. We do have today. “This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). How much rejoicing do we do each day? I confess I need to do more. Besides, “who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)
Did you ever watch the television show Touched by an Angel? Occasionally the Death Angel would show up in one of the episodes. He, too, made a statement that impacted me. He said, “You will face death in the same manner you face life.” Little gasp for a reality check there. How do I face life? I need to make the decision to face life and death with strength and courage. After all, as a Christian I am given the armor and the reassurance of my citizenship in heaven.
Like Mr. Ramsey, live with passion, live with love, and find the merry. Someone once said, “We live in the land of the dying and are heading to the land of the living.” Maybe that’s why the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:1 that “the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” I don’t look at that as being morbid. I see anticipation.
As we live through these uncertain days with the COVID virus continuing to dictate many of our choices and actions, consider the gift of humanity, the blessing of breath, and the joy of living. King David did. “I will praise the Lord while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being” (Psalm 146:2).