Finding Balance in a “Good” Name

by Curtis Jetton, Covenant Hospice Chaplain

There is a proverb tucked away in the book of Ecclesiastes that reads “a good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth.”  This proverb has often surfaced in my ministry as Chaplain for Covenant Hospice because of the inspired hope it delivers as ones read and ponder its meaning for their respective lives.

Every person I have ever met wants a good name.  Most spend their childhood learning this reality and how they are to reflect their family names.  Then they try to live up to it throughout their lives. Then, as the end of life approaches, one spends time reflecting on if they’ve attained a “good name.”  They look back and ask: will leave a legacy? How will I be remembered?  Is there anything I’ve done to mar my “good name”?

 This reflection is an important part of the ministry of chaplains at Covenant Hospice.  Chaplains become friends to walk beside patients and families somewhere in the patients’ journeys between the “day of birth” and “day of death.”  And, it is our goal, like all Covenant employees, to “add life to days when days can no longer be added to life.”

 Imagine life (or name) as a checkbook register with deposits made (stuff we think of as good things) and withdrawals suffered (stuff we think of as bad things, difficulties, etc.).  At the end of life, one wants to be in the black (positive) side and not the red (negative, below zero,empty) side. Chaplains have the privilege of working with individuals as they reconcile all of the things that happened during their lifetime, striving to find balance and therefore, peace.

In my Christian perspective, all things work for good for those who love God, so no matter our perspective of events (good, bad, pretty, ugly, easy, difficult, joy, suffering), they all work in shaping who we are–and our “good name.”  I don’t discount the difficulties and suffering, because it is in those times where I’ve learned joy.  Each “good name” is shaped by people, events, circumstances, and outcomes. It’s the perspective and attitude about all of those things that give us reconciliation and balance.

So, when people look back at their lives and are able to approach the “day of death” with as much vigor as a newborn baby approaches the “day of birth” with a desire to live and breathe on its own, then we can rejoice in saying like another wise proverb in Ecclesiastes calls us to: “better is the end of a thing than its beginning.” 

How’s your name?  How’s your perspective?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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