In the End Good Wins
“What an Outstanding Guy”
It is true that at some level we all want to believe that “in the end good wins.” I was reminded of this life lesson during one particular funeral at which I served as officiant.
Since that service was for a person who I did not know well, I asked several family members to add their comments to my more general comments. There was some unease about which family members would participate in offering words of remembrance.
My remarks came as the result of mingling with folks who attended the viewing/wake the night before the funeral service. There were pictures of the deceased pinned to a cork board resting on an easel. Using those photos as reference, I asked folks lingering at the photo board what they remembered most about the recently departed. They were my sources so that I might figure out how to describe and honor a guy I barely knew.
In his life, the deceased had made many and varied impressions on the folks who were at the gathering that night. Comments ranged from “what an outstanding guy” to “he was a shrewd and calculating businessman.” Some folks recalled the deceased as a private guy, somewhat uncomfortable mingling with others. Others remembered how he was generous with his money, contributing to various charities and community organizations.
“On the Other Hand…”
I also learned, but obviously would not be sharing, that the deceased had been arrested and did time in prison for embezzling from a business partner. He was divorced three times, and his fourth marriage was in the final stages of falling apart at the time of his death. Apparently, he was a mean drunk and could be physically and verbally abusive when he drank.
He had three sons, yet only two would be speaking. The reason son number three would not speak at the funeral will remain private. The two sons summarized their father’s life. If I had not known otherwise, I would have thought from their remarks that the departed was a model citizen, loving father and husband, and a successful businessman. As the boys spoke and eulogized their father, I watched the crowd seated in front of me. All seemed to nod in agreement with the positive aspects of the deceased’s life as described by his sons. They nodded their heads in support of the comments made by the two sons.
Only good memories and inspiring stories were offered. The departed was at peace in death, and therefore, good memories were all that needed celebrating that day. I knew, however, that other memories were also present – the elephant in the room just waiting to stampede.
During the luncheon following the service, several people, at one time or another, asked to speak with me. They had some questions about the service. The questions focused on this concern – the deceased had caused a lot of hurt during his life. But all anyone heard during the service were memories of how great this guy was.
“Do you really believe “in the end, good wins?”
It was apparent they were not buying, “in the end, good wins.” As the religious representative in attendance, folks spoke openly with me about heaven and hell and the eternal consequences resulting from the conduct of one’s life. It only seemed fair they said, that bad people like the departed should reap bad consequences as the result of the conduct of their lives. I have found there is no easy comeback to counter such an opinion.
“I was not this guy’s pastor,” I said, “and I understand that he hadn’t been to church in twenty years or so. Given that, I’d say issues of heaven and hell were of little meaning to him. But they seem to hold some meaning for you,” I continued.
“So pastor, is he in heaven or on his way to hell?” The question was not going away.
“I don’t know for certain. In the end, the God I know is just and fair and forgiving. My God offers forgiveness to all who are truly sorry for the hurt they may have done. In the end, it’s between God and the departed, but that is assuming all of us here believe in God and heaven and hell.”
“Let me leave you with something to gnaw on. What is the good we hope will win out as we live our lives? Is it eternity in heaven? That might be the answer people of faith hope for, but what about the departed and those who don’t believe in an afterlife? What’s the good they might see in all of this?”
“Believe in a good life by believing in the hope of a good life.”
To believe that in the end, good wins is to believe in hope – hope that makes meaning from our lives and offers us some sense of comfort as we face our death. In short, “in the end, good wins,” is nothing more than concluding that for every life, meaning can be found and lessons can be learned to benefit those who are still living. For people of faith, that may include some concept of eternal life as a reward for a good life.
For folks who do not embrace a religious construct of the good life, good winning out is still based on a hopeful conclusion to life. That’s why at the grave or during the funeral service pastors and other speakers talk about remembering that which was good about the departed, what they accomplished and how they, in their own way, tried to make the best of their lives.
Pastors and other speakers go out of their way to bring a message based on this – that all can learn from the lives of those near and dear to us how we might live our lives and how we choose to relate to others. Both a good life or a bad life can lead us to understanding good winning out in the end. Sensing the good in the lives of others is how we ultimately find our own peace, purpose, and contentment with our time on earth.
In the end, good does win. Our lives are models for those who follow us. The hope, the good in life is that those who follow us might benefit from our lives and will find the good for their lives and be transformed.