At times I held my breath, sometimes I clutched the door handle, sometimes I pushed my foot against the car’s floorboards as if that would slow the car down; it didn’t. Yet I remained closed-mouthed or waited until the “moment of terror” ended before I gently instructed. Laura giggled about how my head bobbled when she hit the pot holes a little harder than intended and Beth relished taking the turns around the snow banks that the plow truck made in the parking lot. I tried taking it all in stride. I didn’t want to risk freaking out the new drivers or damaging fragile confidences.
It didn’t seem so long ago that Dad was white-knuckling the door handle while softly instructing me on the wonders of driving a vehicle.
The passage of time has made itself ever real to me. I realized today that on my side of the family we have lost 4 relatives in just a little over a year; an aunt, an uncle, and two cousins. Then I proceeded to reminisce about those we have lost long ago.
I remember Bob and I having a conversation about “lines”. Picture soldiers in formation, great grandparents in the front (if you have them), then grandparents, then parents, then you, then children (if you have them),etc. As people pass on, the next generation moves forward. It’s kind of eerie thinking about the front lines thinning out and realizing that one day you’re going to be it. But remember none of us are promised tomorrow (James 4:14). My cousins that passed away were in their 40s. Sometimes death reaches past the front lines and snags someone prematurely. I hate when that happens.
The most recent death in our family brought a startling thought to my dad: out of my grandparents’ brood of 13, he is now the oldest surviving son. That’s startling on a couple of different plains. I don’t care much for the thoughts of my parents aging, but they are. I definitely don’t care much for the thoughts of me aging, but I am. All I need do is look around my table to confirm that. Often I wonder where my babies went. I used to question if I would survive their childhood or keel over in pure exhaustion yet here they are, young adults. Tick-tock . . . .
A story came out following my uncle’s death. He was in a hospital bed in another room. My aunt had a monitor at the foot of his bed so she could check on him from her own bedroom. One night he was talking to Grandma and Grandpa. Was my uncle seeing his parents in his own suspended state of death? I don’t know. But here’s what I do know: death was never meant to be a final farewell. My uncle lived a wild life, a “rascal” was what one of my aunts called him. But guess what? He came to Jesus. He was water baptized, fully submersed, while wearing a t-shirt saying, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. It was a late-in-life conversion, and he carried on with some of his former bad habits, (I imagine they may be difficult to break after decades of practice), but it was genuine. I remember glancing at him in church and thinking how happy he looked to be in God’s house. After many years of wandering, he had finally come home. The message the day of his funeral:
It is not too late and you have not gone too far to come to Jesus. God’s deepest desire is for us to come to Him.
The saddest part about death is remaining. It leaves the living too much time to think about what they could have done differently. A neighbor lady told me about a friend of hers who spent all of the time she could with her mother because she was elderly. Little did she know that her husband would die unexpectedly many years before her mother did. Did she regret not spending more time with her husband?
Maybe we should try to live today without regrets. Make that phone call. Write that letter. Send that text. Give that hug. Say that word. Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today — and make sure people top the list, not things. I know, I know, it’s hard. Work and chores must be done. Yes, that’s so. But sprinkle the mundane with the spectacular. Set out the good dishes for no particular reason and when there is no company. Play with the kids. Laugh with your spouse. Call that friend you haven’t spoken with for a while. Make an impromptu visit or call to parents or siblings. Let those who have been away from church know that they are missed. Take up a new hobby. It’s not too late. My uncle was proof of that. He had a lifetime of rough living, but towards the end, he chose Jesus. I’ll remember the light of his countenance and the smile on his lips. He had finally come to know true love, joy, and peace.
Join me in being more aware of those around us. Can we help them find their way somehow? Can we encourage them? Let us also be conscious of the passing of time for it is slipping by so very, very quickly. May God guide us in spending our moments wisely.