Death…and Life

Last winter I held my father-in-law while he took his final raspy breaths. My hair hung in his face as I stroked his balding head and planted trembling, tear-drenched lips on his forehead … over and over and over. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. He was Grandpa to our children, the first grandparent to live near enough to visit every week. We’d only had him around for four years. Surely it wasn’t time for him to go yet.

Two winters ago I almost died. Sepsis – an unknown killer that masquerades as a virus – sent me into a nasty downward spiral. Hours stretched long as weakness and pain intensified, dragging me steadily to the end of my strength. Just as I ran out of fight, the process was halted. A myriad of kind hospital staff, fervent prayers and soft, warm blankets worked together to quietly but firmly pull me back from the brink.

IMG_2017

Doctors told me later how close things had been. I’d almost stepped through the veil into the heavenly realms. Part of me longed to know what that was like, to enter right into the fullness and wonder of God’s presence. The other part sighed with relief. I was still here to love and care for my family. Most of all I struggled to comprehend that my life had almost ended.

Was I really that frail?

The following days in ICU taught me how very fragile I was. The littlest tasks were either impossible or left me exhausted and breathless. Reality stared me in the face: I wasn’t the strong woman I’d always imagined myself to be. In a matter of moments everything could change. Or even end.

Those old, familiar, time-worn words echoed their truth loudly in my heart, “Life is a gift.”

I’ve known the wonder – four times – of clutching a warm, wet newborn to my breast, my heart beating in sync with theirs as my eyes drank in every inch of their perfection. Such miracles.

I’ve been overwhelmed by sorrow as I cradled the beautiful, lifeless form of a precious nephew, hello and goodbye tears streaming, mingled, from my eyes. Such heartbreak.

IMG_3998

Each of us follows a winding path through the years we spend on earth. We can’t always see what’s around the corner. On we travel through various seasons, some of great joy and some of deep sorrow, many which seem ordinary and insignificant. Through it all one truth remains the same.

We don’t have forever.

Our life on earth is transient. The miracle of conception marks its beginning and death its end.

Somehow I lost sight of this.

Somehow I believed I had unlimited years to follow God’s plan for me. There was time, I thought, to waft off-track chasing glistening, empty bubbles, just for the sheer pleasure of it. Surely those higher pursuits could wait a while.

They can’t.

There will come a time when each of us will take our last raspy breath. None of us know exactly when that day will be. Standing in God’s presence, we’ll have opportunity to look back and reflect on the path we’ve walked. Will we have regrets? Will we be satisfied? Will we wish we could go back and do things differently?

Hindsight is a wonderful teacher. But there will come a day when it’s too late to change course. Our life on earth will have reached its end. Now is the time to pause and consider the way we’re walking through our days.

King Solomon once said, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” (Proverbs 14:8)

Prudence, better known as good sense, is not out-of-date. If we will only take time to reflect and make necessary changes, we can live a life that has no regrets. Isn’t that what we all want…really?

This life we’ve been given is a treasure indeed. Let’s not waste it.