How many days?
Funerals… sad and wonderful at the same time. The searing loss, the waves of grief, the sudden and unexpected tears that flow in fits and bursts. But sweetness in the midst of pain is there as well. Friends and family – some not seen for years, sweet memories, an appreciation for life.
How many days?
“Teach us to number our days, oh Lord, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
“And in your book they were all written – the days that were ordained for me, before any one of them had come to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
Most of us don’t really want to die – for lots of us we know we will be separated from people we dearly love and we know the pain it will inflict on them. But I confess that sometimes I’m more comfortable with the “being dead” part than I am with the “dying” part. We naturally shun pain and suffering – it’s how we’re made.
But we’ll all face it. When you’re at a funeral it’s pretty hard not to wonder, “How many days do I have left?” A lot? Or will it be few?
But for me, the bigger question is not, “How many days?” It is, “How will I spend them?”
Intellectually I understand that death is no respecter of persons – but emotionally I think I want it to be. I want to be able to say, “I’ve earned more time,” – to… someone.
But here is what I’ve come to know. Death comes for each of us. Death comes like a thief in the night – even when dear ones have fought a long and hideous battle with illness, their moment of breathing their last breath has been surprising.
Once we’re dead, we’re gone. We get no more chances to say the things we meant to say. We have no more opportunities to be with the ones we meant to spend more time with.
As a Christian, this knowledge changes how I live my everyday life. I see bigger things at play all the time. Little things are infinitely more important than some of them seem, and great big crises are like the dust you blow off of forgotten treasures in the attic – it’s the treasure that’s important but sometimes we focus on the dust.
Telling people I love them – and why – seems small, but it isn’t. Listening to a child chatter on about something I’m not interested in but he is, seems annoying, but teaches him that I value him. Allowing a teenager to learn how to respectfully disagree with me seems counter-intuitive sometimes, but is a gift to her and to all those she will disagree with later. Those ordinary, daily, small interchanges are not what make life – they are life. If we miss them or neglect them we lose them forever. But if we embrace them they are also ours to keep forever.
How many days? Don’t worry about it. “For which of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 7:27) Concentrate instead on how you will spend the days you are given. Speak the things you need to speak as if the next moment will be your last – for it may. And invest in the lives around you as if you will live forever – for you, and they, will.