One warm summer afternoon when I was in my early teens I went with my family to visit a grave yard on a hillside in Western Pennsylvania. We went primarily to visit the grave of my paternal grandfather. I never met him. He died several years before I was born. We have other relatives buried there, however, and we all like history, so after we had paid our respects, we kind of rambled around just enjoying the sunshine and reading epitaphs.
We came upon one head stone that was fairly plain. It just had the name of a woman and her dates, and under the dates, the words, “She hath done what she could.” We all looked at one another. It seemed a very odd epitaph. If I had been familiar with southern custom at the time, I would have felt that it warranted a “Bless her heart” just after the words that were carved there. It sounded like someone was saying, “Poor thing, she really did try, but….” We stood there for a while and then we started to laugh. It just seemed so odd and pathetic, and well, kind of funny. Who would put such a thing on the tombstone of a loved one for people to read about her for generations?
At the time, my family were not long Christians. We were just beginning to get to know the Bible. I was in church sometime later that year and the pastor chose the text in Mark, chapter 14. It is the story of the woman who broke the expensive bottle of perfume and poured it all over Jesus. People in the room were highly critical of the woman for her extravagance. They saw what she did as a waste. The perfume could have been sold and the money could have been given to the poor. Jesus defended her. “Leave her alone,” Jesus said, “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me…She did what she could…I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
I have no idea what the point of that sermon was. All I could think about was that woman buried on the hill near my grandfather. She must have been some lady. She probably wasn’t the kind to use her talents for gaining worldly wealth or fame or honor. She just did what she could, but she did it all for Jesus. That is all He wants of us. I read this passage this morning and it all came back to me so clearly. I needed to remember it. I can’t think of a better epitaph. I do think a scripture reference would be helpful, though.