What comes after your comma?

Allow me to set this up.

I enjoy listening to ESPN Radio, and recently the station replayed a segment from an old Mike & Mike Show. Mike Greenberg was talking about how some athletes don’t seem to be concerned with how they will be perceived or remembered — and then he said something that stuck in my mind.

He asked, nobody in particular, what came after their comma.

Stop and think about that for a moment. I would bet you’ve never been asked that question … ever. Unil now … what comes after your comma?

About two decades ago, I took a job as a reporter with a weekly newspaper in Central Texas. I didn’t know a soul and they didn’t know me. In fact, the only reason I was hired was because the publisher’s wife liked a column I wrote about the birth of my daughter. Go figure.

When I went into the office for my first day of work, I was given a brief tour of the place and introductions to my new co-workers. Then I was given my first assignment — writing my own obituary.

If you think that’s easy, give it a try sometime. But it helps make my point here about the comma.

Every obituary starts out with the individual’s name and age — and then there is a comma. What will come next for you?

Greenberg spoke about the myriad of possibilities for what might come after the comma. There are numerous adjectives possible — things like “giving” or “caring” or “selfless” — and just as many nouns — such as “mother/father” or “military veteran” or “farmer.”

But here’s a bigger question: If you were to write your name and age, then a comma, would what comes next be anything like what someone else might write for you?

In taking stock of your life, you may see yourself in a light that is different than how your family sees you — or a friend or co-worker. More importantly, how you see yourself or how you are seen by someone else is far less likely to be as honest as how God sees you.

You may see your accomplishments over the years as what stands out. Promotions, awards, titles and money could be the measuring stick you use to determine whether your life has been a success.

It’s possible that a life of serving others is what defines you. Church positions to serve the Lord, charitable efforts and helping family and friends takes a high place in how you see your life.

Some might very well see their place in the family as their shining moment. Raising children, teaching them to be good people and staying involved in their lives might be where you hang your legacy’s hat.

These are but a few of the many ways we could see ourselves during a full and busy life.

Many years ago I asked my readers to send me their life’s story in exactly six words. It’s something I stole from a magazine that asked a similar question. I presumed each of those who responded put some serious thought into their “story,” and the responses I received were both surprising and interesting. One of these days I will be asking this same question of you.

But when life ends, will the six words you write be what eventually follows your comma?

Probably not, because that obituary will be written by someone else.

I would say there are six words which every person should want to see after the comma, no matter who writes it. Those words are, went to be with the Lord. If you have those six words attached to your name, and they ring true, then your life was a good one.

If there is an underlying message here, it’s this: Your name may come first in an obituary, and it might be what is written in the Book of Life at Heaven’s gates, but it holds far less importance than what comes after the comma.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]