Let me tell you what I wish I’d known when I was young and dreamed of glory: you have no control – who lives, who dies, who tells your story…
This year, my Lenten journey was profoundly impacted by one musical more than any other: Hamilton. I finally had the chance to see the play at the end of March and rarely has a show had such an important affect.
Yes, the story is remarkable. The historical account largely accurate. And the music – I’ve rarely had such fun at the theater.
But the piece that keeps circling around in my mind is the final song of the production, during which the events following Alexander Hamilton’s death are shared. In other words, who told his story. Though presidents and politicians were a key part of that tale, since his legacy has had such a large impact upon our nation, they were not the most profound witness.
It was his wife who truly told his story.
Eliza Hamilton lived another fifty years after he died (to the age of 97). She did ensure that his story was told through words and writings, but she did something even more important. She sought to make lives better because of what her husband had taught her. She spoke out against slavery. She ensured that his shining ideals were finding flesh in the new country. And most impressive, she founded an orphanage where hundreds of children grew up even within her lifetime. Hamilton was himself an orphan and she could see him in the eyes of every child who’s life she touched.
I’ve had to do two funerals in the past two weeks. And the best wisdom I was ever given about doing a eulogy was to let a person’s life preach for them. Tell their stories. And God’s presence and work will be made plain.
However, the part that is essential at the end of anyone’s life is not just that the story of how they lived is retold. No. It is that we continue to let their life influence ours. To let their light shine through us. To keep their witness going.
As Eliza says in the play, I stopped wasting time on tears. Instead, she lived. Lived fully and well.
As we approach Easter this weekend, my hope is that as we hear the story of Christ’s earthly end and resurrection, we will not only listen to remember the tale. I hope we will open our hearts and minds to the ways we can continue to bear witness to his and so many other stories that have impacted our lives. That is how we live out the legacies that have been passed to us. May we be so bold, brave, and willing to bear the work that still needs to be done.