He was brilliant. Clearly a child prodigy . . . the pride of Salzburg . . . a performer par excellence.
At age five he wrote an advanced concerto for the harpsichord. Before he turned ten he had composed and published several violin sonatas and was playing from memory the best of Bach and Handel. Soon after his twelfth birthday he composed and conducted his own opera . . . and was awarded an honorary appointment as concertmaster with the Salzburg Symphony Orchestra. Before his brief life ended, he had written numerous operettas, cantatas, hymns, and oratorios, as well as forty-eight symphonies, forty-seven arias, duets, and quartets with orchestral accompaniment, and over a dozen operas. Some 600 works!
His official name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Amadeus Theophilus Mozart. With a handle like that, he had to be famous.
He was only thirty-five when he passed on. He was living in poverty and died in obscurity. His sick widow seemed indifferent at his burial. A few friends went as far as the church for his funeral but were deterred by a storm from going to the gravesite.
By the time anyone bothered to inquire, the location of his grave was impossible to identify. The unmarked grave of Mozart—perhaps the most gifted composer of all time—became lost forever. No shrine marks his resting place for music lovers to visit. No granite-engraved etchings for admirers to read. No place for candles to burn, flowers to embellish, tourists to gather. Mozart has joined the immortal, eternal ages—forever absent from sight. He is gone.
Or is he? Unlike Caesar, the good he did lives after him. The evil is interred with his bones. Only a handful of music buffs could begin to list three or four evils of that Austrian-born artist. Then what good lives on? His unique contributions: his style, his eminent innovations, that “Mozart touch.” No other sound is like it. It is his, altogether. A timeless trophy, created by a genius, captured on the score, bringing warmth and delight to endless generations. In his music, Mozart lives on. Unexcelled.
Several years ago one of my children and I walked through a cemetery. We paused and read the stones. We knew none of the deceased. It was a nostalgic, gripping encounter. Hand in hand we walked and talked. Softly. Thoughtfully. It was as though we were on sacred soil. Time stopped at each marker. Quietness swept over us as we drove away. I shall not soon forget what I learned.
First, life is brief. Terribly brief. On every stone there is a little dash . . . a horizontal line . . . illustrating time. Mozart’s stone (wherever it is) reads:
That’s it. But if only that “dash” could speak! It’d teach us the next lesson.
Second, opportunity is now. Not later. Now. Your contribution, small though it may seem, is unique and altogether yours. Whatever it may be—it becomes that timeless trophy you invest daily. The ancient aphorism I heard as a boy occasionally haunts me:
Four things come not back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, time past, the neglected opportunity.
Third, death is sure. You can’t dodge it, save by the Rapture. It’s coming, friend. And at that time, like Mozart, you may seem insignificant to others. Forgotten, even. The only thing that will live on will be your personal contributions, your unique investments during your lifetime. Not your name . . . or your grave . . . but your timeless trophy.
Okay, so you’re not brilliant, a prodigy, a composer of symphonies. What are you? A mother of two, three kiddos? An executive, a salesman, a retired military officer, a student, a nurse, a divorcée, minister, teacher, widow, farmer? Your trophy is your contribution—whatever and wherever. Known or unknown. It’s your investment, your gifted “touch,” that will live on far beyond the grave. God displays these trophies forever.
It is said of Abel:
God testifying about his gifts . . . though he is dead, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4b)
Such trophies never tarnish.