I have become like a portent to many; but you are my strong refuge. (Ps. 71:7)

JEREMY TAYLOR’S HOLY LIVING AND HOLY DYING is a devotional classic. The first book in this collective title presents the virtues and characteristics needed to live a holy life, while the second book depicts the “art of dying.” There was thought to be an obvious connection between living a holy life and finishing that life well. What remains true from that rather quaint eighteenth-century example is that people are watching your life, from beginning to end. Enemies and scoffers are eager to see you falter at the end.

I watched my father, a strong devoted man, grow old and die. He enjoyed life, his family, and his God. His priorities directed him to the important things found in relationships. This embrace continued even as he battled cancer, heart disease, and the frailty of old age. He died in his sleep, as my mother said, “at peace in the arms of his Jesus.”

Psalm 71 is a prayer of an old person, but it holds a message for all who read it. The psalmist is able to look back on the many times that God showed faithfulness: from birth, through youth, and even at the end, the writer prayed that God might bring deliverance again. Many saw psalmist’s situation as a sign of God’s judgment, so he called upon God to be his strong refuge.

Write down the words you would like to become your epitaph.

Richard Eckley is professor of theology at Houghton College and serves on the Women in Ministry Task Force for The Wesleyan Church.

© 2018 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.