Anytime I read the obituary of a younger person who has suddenly passed away, it makes me sad; sad for their families, sad for their friends. But sometimes it also puts our lives into perspective. Because, lets face it, we’re all going to die someday. Are we prepared for that day? I know that our hearts are prepared to meet Jesus, our souls long to be reunited with God. But what are the things that each of needs to do before we go?
If you learned that you had one year to live, what would you do differently? Would you travel? Where would you go? What’s that one place you really want to see? For me, I want to see the giant Redwoods and giant Sequoia trees in California. There are many other places I’d like to go, but seeing and touching those trees are high on my bucket list. Just imagine the stories they could tell! Redwoods can live for 2000 years, and sequoias can live for 3000 years! How amazing is that! The oldest sequoia known is 3500 years old. Wow! But the oldest known tree in the world is a Bristlecone pine located in the White Mountains of California, and it is over 5000 years old! (There are older clonal colonies of trees, some believed to be 80,000 years old, but that’s a tree story for another day.)
Who are the people that you would want to spend more time with if you knew your time was limited? Are you a lucky one whose family is nearby and you see them on a regular basis? What friends have slipped out of your life, and you wish to reconnect with? School friends that you haven’t seen for years? Maybe friends from the military that you served with, and you wish you knew how to get ahold of them. Would you try harder to find them? Do you have family a long way away that you want to go see”someday”?
Are there relationships in your life that need to be mended? Are there apologies that you need to make? Is there someone that you need to forgive to cleanse your heart of anger and resentment?
We have all lost family and friends, and we all know what grief feels like. My paternal grandfather died when I was 6 years old. I have a few specific memories of him, but not many. I do have a shelf that he made, he was a carpenter and farmer, that my dad’s cousin gave me. He had made it for her when she was a girl, and she felt I should have it. It was a very kind gesture, and I cherish it. But do my kids know who made it? And what significance it carries? Probably not. It would probably get sold at a rummage sale, or maybe even tossed in the trash. What keepsakes do you have that should be labeled or explained to the next generation?
Do you have boxes of unlabeled photographs? I inherited my grandmother’s box, as well as several albums. Some of the pictures were labeled, some not, and some had been labeled on the back and then glued into the album! Who the heck are these people?? I gave the box to my dad in hopes that he would label them, but he passed away before they were finished. Its taken me years, and visits from a couple of my dad’s cousins to get them figured out. And yes, there are still some that I don’t know, but for the most part, those pictures have names. And I was able to send some of them to the people in the pictures! Now, that was fun! But do my kids know who these people are? Nope.
I know that in my life, I tend to get caught up in the day to day workings of life. I have my job, my hobbies, my responsibilities and obligations, and the unending list of chores that need to be done in my daily life. My brain has its own worries and ideas that need attention. I have errands to run, and meetings to attend. I think that pretty much summarizes everyone’s normal days. But maybe, we all need to learn to just pause. Stop the running. Breathe. Take time every day to do something you like. Take the time to talk to those you love. Tell them how much you love them. Listen to them. Ask about their lives.
I loved listening to the stories my grandparents told of their childhoods. I loved hearing about the mischief they caused, and what they did for fun. My maternal grandfather told the best stories about tipping over outhouses where he grew up in Iowa, and playing baseball, April Fools pranks and Halloween shenanigans. My paternal grandmother awed me with stories of riding horseback through the prairie near Bowman, shooting rattlesnakes. She and her brother would cut the rattles off the tails to see who got the most. I heard stories of the Great Depression, stories of hardship and pain, and stories of love and laughter. I wish I had those stories written down. Even though they may seem trivial to some, they are a part of my heritage, my family’s history. Its like “Little House on the Prairie”, but instead of Ma and Pa, its about grandma and grandpa, and great grandma and great grandpa, some of whom I was born too late to meet.
What stories do you have for your family? Have you ever thought of writing them down? Or recording yourself telling the stories? I know more and more people are doing this nowadays, and its such a great treasure for those who get to listen to those stories. And don’t forget to include the stories that your grandparents told you! How much fun it was to hear about how great great grandpa and grandma came across the ocean, gave birth to great grandpa on the ship, and kept him hidden until the ship was in the harbor, making him a natural born citizen! Those crazy Norwegians!
We all hope we have many years ahead to do all the things we want to do. But there are things we shouldn’t put off, no matter our age. Tell those people that you love them. Write down your stories. Forgive those who’ve hurt you and don’t dwell on negative experiences. Live life for happiness and don’t let the daily grind get you down. Eat the cake, drink the wine, use your good dishes, and plan that trip.
Loving God, thank you for the time that you’ve given us here on this earth. Help us to use our gifts and resources wisely, to help others, and to glorify you. Bless us with the knowledge of your love and forgiveness, and help us love and forgive those in our lives as well. Help us see the goodness in life and beauty all around us, that was created by you. Help us to see the extraordinary in our everyday ordinary lives. In your name we pray, Amen.