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Friend remembered as good steward of many gifts

Kevin Holtz's southwest Iowa gravestone is unmarked. He died a few days ago. In time his grave will be marked as are the nearby graves. There is not a lot that differentiates the gravestones near Holtz's. Most are etched with a person's first and last name and his or her date of birth and date of death. A few gravestones include a Scripture passage. Others are chiseled with an identifier - "Mom," "Brother," "Dad."

I don't know anything about the lives of those buried in the Avoca Cemetery because I was born and reared in Omaha. The most I know about them is their gender, ethnicity and age at their time of death.

After Holtz's gravesite ceremony and on the walk back to my car on an overcast autumn morning, I found myself wanting to know more about the unfamiliar names carved on the gravestones. I wanted to know them like I knew Kevin Holtz.

Holtz was 50 years old when he died. He was a loving husband, father, son and brother. He had an engaging and lively sense of humor. He could be mischievous, which made him an effective prankster.

He was always willing to help neighbors or relatives with farm chores. He worked hard; he had a day job and he managed the farm he owned in Walnut, Iowa. Finally, and most important, he was blessed with the capacity to love. That explains his sense of humor; when people laugh, they experience joy. Holtz wanted people to be joyful.

Perhaps the most important bit of information on a person's gravestone is the dash that gets engraved between a person's date of birth and date of death. The dash matters. Who we are, how we live our lives and what we do with the gifts God has given us from our time of birth to time of death is all-important. This is the rich meaning of the dash. "Time is in the Father's hands; it is in the present that we encounter him, not yesterday nor tomorrow, but today"("The Catechism of the Catholic Church").

It has been said that our time on earth is one of the most precious gifts God has given us. We don't know how many days each of us will be given to live our earthly lives so we must choose to use our time wisely. We cannot save time for the future nor can we relive a day in the past. We are good stewards of the gift of time when we make right priorities in our busy lives, remembering that "time is love."

Good stewards put spending time with God in prayer and worship on their list of priorities, so God doesn't just get "leftover" time.

Good stewards also make time for family and friends, nurturing relationships and caring for each other as they follow the commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12).

Kevin Holtz was a good steward. And the next time family and friends return to his grave, it will be engraved with his name, date of birth and date of death. Family and friends will look proudly at the freshly engraved dash knowing that he was a good example of what it means to be a steward of God's gifts.

Deacon Tim McNeil is a staff member of the archdiocese's Stewardship, Planning and Development Office.

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