Despite a solid performance from host Jimmy Kimmel and an all-around entertaining evening, this year’s Oscars will most likely be remembered for the controversy surrounding the Best Picture award. But while mistakenly declaring La La Land the winner has dominated the coverage for much of today, it wasn’t the only mistake of the night. It turns out the hopes and dreams of the Moonlight cast and crew were not the first things to be killed a bit prematurely during the course of the event.
You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Australian costume designer Janet Patterson. Many outside the movie industry have not. Yet, as a four-time Oscar nominee, she built quite the résumé before her untimely death this past October. So it’s understandable that her friends and family would expect her to be honored in this year’s “In Memoriam” section of the broadcast. And she was . . . sort of. Her name and occupation were listed, but the picture given was that of Australian producer and close friend Jan Chapman. Chapman, who is alive and well, told Variety that she “was devastated” that her picture appeared instead of Patterson’s because it robbed the latter of the recognition she deserved.
While the Academy receives criticism of its “In Memoriam” section every year, it’s usually because someone was left out rather than put in. Either way, it shows the value that we tend to place on remembering the dead. Part of that value originates from a genuine desire to uphold the accomplishments of those we hold dear. However, that desire is seldom separated from the hope that by remembering others, someone will remember us as well. We pay the respect forward because, on some level, we also crave it for ourselves.
But why does it matter to us that we’re remembered fondly by the living when we are no longer among them? After all, it’s not like we’ll be able to bask in their praise from the grave.
I think part of the reason is that, no matter who you are or what you believe, all of us have an innate need to feel as though our lives matter; that it made some difference that we lived and lived well. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that desire was knit into our souls by our heavenly Father and, if directed properly, can drive us to accomplish truly amazing things for his kingdom. God has created and equipped each of us for a role that only we can fill in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), and he has a plan for each of our lives (Jeremiah 29:11). We want to live a life of consequence because that’s what each of us was created to do. The problem comes when we begin to define such accomplishments by a standard other than God’s.
One of the primary reasons that so many fear that they have wasted their lives is that they misunderstand what those lives were meant to accomplish. Your calling and mine are not the same, and thank God that is so as this would be a terribly boring and unfulfilling world if we were all supposed to be doing the exact same thing. Misunderstanding that fact, however, tempts us to define our lives by comparison to the accomplishments of others rather than to the will of our Father.
So the next time you ponder how you’ll be remembered when you’re gone, take a minute to pray and ask God to help you evaluate your life as he does. And remember that, while there’s nothing wrong with being remembered well by those we leave behind, it’s far better to be remembered well by the One waiting for us on the other side of eternity. What would he say about your life today?