I parked the car. Gathered my things. Opened my door and headed toward the apartment. Two small kids, no older than five, were playing outside. Their older brother, at least I assumed he was, was outside with them.
This was a little rougher neighborhood. I wasn’t sure how I would be received. The older brother shot me a BIG smile and asked me how I was doing. His siblings were playing around me. After the older brother and I had a nice exchange. I knocked on the door. It was opened.
There is something very humbling about being welcomed into the home of a person who is dying. Each breath is a struggle. Each moment is painful. Yet this person is gracious enough to allow me to take of their limited time. What an honor. What a weight. What a privilege.
What can I say? What value can I add to the person? How can I help them cope? How can I encourage them? These thoughts run through my head. Scriptures are quoted. Stories are told. Life is celebrated. Moments are cherished. And love is felt.
After close to an hour, I pray for him. Gather my things and head for the door. The children are still outside. I’m greeted by BIG smiles and Valentine stickers. A different way of celebrating life is taking place right outside their door. Yet a celebration none the less.
Life is very precious. We are all given a limited amount time. We all have an expiration date. The closer you get to it, the more precious it becomes. The more time I sit with those who are dying, the more I’m aware of my expiration date. I strive to live my life in light of that reality.
In a matter of an hour, I got to experience two incredible things: the presence of someone who is close to leaving this earth and two who are just getting started. Each encounter was vastly different, yet very similar.
Smiles. Laughter. Giving. Receiving. Time was given. A connection was made. Love was felt.
I often think about the things in which I’m pursing. The things I’m desiring. Awards? Recognition? Fame? Fortune? The entrapments of this world. Are these the things that add value to life? Are these the important things in life?
I’ve yet to encounter someone who is close to death say, “I wish I would have gotten that promotion.” “I wish I would have made more money.” “I wish I would have gotten just one more award.”
No, what I hear is that people what to spend their remaining time with those they love. They want to surround themselves with those close to them. Say those things we all think we have time to say. They want to leave this world surrounded by love.
What better way to spend the final moments of your life? Surrounded by love.
We are given the most important commandments to govern our lives in Mark 12: 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
When all in life is stripped away and the end is near. There is nothing more important than loving – God and others. Love. Pure and simple. Love is what we crave. Love is what flavors our bland lives.
When you are close to your end, what will surround you? Your achievements? Or those you’ve loved? Choose wisely. It only happens once. Make it count. Don’t wait unit it’s too late. Love now. Love intentionally. Love well.