She Hath Done What She Could

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.

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5 Responses to She Hath Done What She Could

  1. Allison says:

    You can learn a lot from epitaphs. My Dad has a book (someone gave him for Christmas)—a coffee table book—-of interesting headstones. It is a really interesting book. There are funny ones, sad ones, plain ones, clever ones……

    Of course there is always the Haunted Mansion at Disney World….

    “Here lies dear old Fred. A great big rock fell on his head.”

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  2. Amy says:

    Interesting. That is the story that the kids and read before bed last night. We read it from a Bible story book but now I’m going to have to go back and read it from the Bible because God obviously wants me to get a message. : )

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  3. Briane Kearns says:

    This is going to sound odd, but I once had a date (when I was single, of course) where after dinner the guy took me to a large, historic black cemetery in Raleigh. We wandered among the headstones reading the epitaphs. It was actually quite moving. He was a writer and he liked to read the epitaphs and then construct an entire story around them as a sort of mental exercise. It was a date night that I never forgot. The relationship did not work out so well. He was a bit too odd.

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  4. Gretchen Mechling says:

    Interesting that I shared this occasion with our Small Group a few weeks ago. I will never forget the first time I read that in Mark 14, and realized how beautiful it was. I agree it would have helped us that day to have had a scripture reference after the quote.
    Love you sweetheart!!!

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