By Norris Burkes March 24 2024

It seems like the marketing folks won’t leave us alone. They are constantly trying to sell us something.

They follow us everywhere. “Buy, buy, buy!” It’s the mantra of a marketing world where the word “miracle” is defined by how quickly our plants grow or how white our teeth become.

The solicitations blast through TV commercials, emails, voicemails, texting, even through recorded info commercials wailing in medical waiting rooms. Gratefully, I can ignore most of those sources.

But there’s one place I can’t escape – the gas pump.

Service stations often use video displays on the pump pontificate the wisdom of buying good rain tires.

Yet, despite all the pleas to buy things, my hospital chaplain experiences tell me that whatever I buy will likely one day be packed away in a plastic garbage bag.

I know this from the numerous times I was present for the end of life. They were times that usually started with the squawk over the public address system.

“Code Blue, 5 North. Code Blue, 5 North.”

That announcement was my cue to join medical staff running toward the Intensive Care Unit. Inside the unit, the resuscitation team surrounded the patient while I’d stand a few feet away beside a frantic family member.

We’d watch together as clothes were cut off. IVs inserted. Chest compressions made.

The doctor held defibrillator paddles and rubbed them together, merging confidence and chance.

“Charge – clear – shock – charge – clear – shock.”


“One ampule epinephrine,” called the doc to the nurse.

More compressions and more shock.

Heads turned to the monitor. Nothing.

The doc placed his stethoscope on his patient’s chest.

“I’m calling it,” says the doc.

This was the official pronouncement for everyone to cease their lifesaving efforts and allow the time of death to be recorded.

As you might imagine, I’d spend the next moments with the family in closing rituals and prayers.

Those were highly meaningful moments to the family, but eventually we came to a rather awkward moment of gathering the loved one’s belongings.

Of course, the family was unprepared for this moment, so the nurse would offer the easiest packaging available — often a plastic bag.

After the family filled the bag, staff would say their goodbyes and I’d walk the family out of the hospital, through the main lobby where the TV wailed another pitch to buy one more thing.

Those walks often had me wondering what it might be like when my time comes.

Will my bags be filled with things the marketers persuaded me to buy? And what will my children do with those bags?

Whatever they decide, I hope my physical possessions aren’t the only things I’ll pass on to them. I hope they carry a part of my faith as well.

Of course, faith can’t be inherited from parents. That’s why it’s been said that “God doesn’t have grandchildren, only children” — meaning a person must find his or her own faith.

However, it is still a legitimate part of my faith journey to regularly ask myself questions like: Will there be a part of myself worth commending to my children? What part of me do I wish they would become? And what part of my faith ends with my death?

I guess all those questions can only be answered superimposed with Jesus’ question in Mark 8:36 and repeated throughout modern history by Gandhi, King and Kennedy.

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”

Keep that question in sight and the answers you find will become a legacy worth sharing.


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