What three words describe your life?

I’ve been blessed to speak on four continents in front of crowds ranging from seven to 7,000. I’ve spoken at schools, churches, corporate chicken  dinners and at backyard barbecues.

Somehow through these years, I’ve maintained a streak of attending many funerals, but never speaking at one.

Last month, in southern Utah, in the red shadows of Bryce Canyon, that streak was broken.


My maternal grandmother, Mary Marva Thompson Fletcher, passed away and was remembered in Cannonville, a town hand-painted by heaven in Garfield County.

When my mother called me from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia, the news was the classic double-whammy. Not only had her mother died, but my mom would not be able to attend her funeral. Recent back surgery keeps her from sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time, and the doctor said making the trip was impossible.

Before the sun had set on the same day Grandma took her last beautiful breath on this short side of eternity, my aunt Rosemary Fletcher had asked if I’d speak at the service. Rosie has been so selflessly caring for Grandma for years, and if she asked me to walk to the edge of the Earth with no shoes and a broken big toe, I’d be in Denver by dark.

A couple of days later, with my travel arrangements set, Rosie and I spoke by phone about what I might share. She began by explaining my grandmother’s lifelong love of the scriptures.

“Did she have a favorite story, chapter or verse?” I asked.

The answer came before the verbal question mark. “Faith, hope and charity.”

“Faith, hope and charity,” I repeated, and Rosie explained her mother’s love for the Bible's teachings on the importance of those three attributes.

During the days between that call and standing at the pulpit in a humble chapel in Utah’s Color Country, I heard those three words over and over.

On the flights from D.C. to Detroit to Las Vegas. In a rental car with my brother racing north along Interstate 15 to Cedar City. Then, twisting along Route 20 through Panguich, Bryce and Tropic.

“Faith, hope and charity.”

If your life had to be summed up before God and man in three words, if your friends and family gathered tomorrow to plant and fertilize your legacy, what three words would they use?

During my remarks, I read sections of the chapter and noted the critical link between the three attributes and the active nature of these words. My grandmother made these words verbs in her life.

She’d exercised her faith muscles and learned to trust in the Lord’s wisdom and not her own.

She’d turned hope into a routine for daily living. She knew hope in Christ’s Atonement was the only way she’d survive an occasionally challenging life and find eternal happiness in the next.

She truly accepted that charity is the pure love of Jesus Christ. She learned that to truly love Him is to follow Him, and tried to see all of us the way He does. When the world was often quick to give up on someone, Grandma saw through a much longer lens and recognized infinite goodness and potential.

“Faith, hope and charity.”

Three perfect words that describe Marva Fletcher’s imperfect but Christ-centered life.

As I write these final lines from 39,000 feet somewhere over Ohio, as I look out the window at a red sky that reminds me of the rocks in Grandma’s backyard, I can’t stop wondering what three words might be used to describe my own life when body and soul part for a season.

How about you? What three words will be used to describe your time taking this temporal test with an eternal grade?

Me? I’ve got a long, long way to go, but if Grandma wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d be honored to use hers and to live in the golden glow of her and my Grandpa’s righteous legacies.

“Faith, hope and charity.”

Time to earn them.