Right before Christmas we went to visit a nursing home. The kids were so excited to finally pass out their home made cards to these sweet and elderly residents. As we walked the heated hallways, smelling the aroma of mashed potatoes from the dining room, and watching the feeble bodies lying in half-lit rooms, it made me think of fragile we all are.
We were almost out of cards, when we entered a room occupied by two women. One of them was happily conversing with her daughter, and the other was lying in a small white bed quietly staring in the distance. As my daughter gently placed the Christmas card beside her, the nurse whispered to us that this old lady was about to pass away at any moment.
She was beautiful, with dark navy blue eyes, high check bones and her feminine features were still apparent on her aged skin. We all became quiet and started singing “Go Tell It On The Mountain” to her. With her eyes still open she turned her head in our direction, and then went back to her intense gazing into empty space. Why was she passing away alone, where was her family, her children, her husband…What was her life’s story ?
It left me pondering ,as she was approaching her end on this earth, about the life she had led, the words she had spoken, the good she did, the joy she had spread to others, the comfort she had provided, the love she had experienced…I hoped she loved God. It made me think of Isaiah 46:3-4 : “I created you and have cared for you since you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime, until your hair is white with age. I made you and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”
Yes, we are here on earth for a limited time, with the purpose of doing good, make a difference, and reflect Christ in our existence. In the end we are the aggregate amount of several moments, of thousands of spoken words, of hugs and kisses, of strength, of suffering days, of triumphant lessons, of wisdom learned and passed on to others, of years of parenting, of friendships made and lost, of hopefully a log fulfilling life that made a positive impact on this earth. As we all approach our evanescence, we have to make sure that the story of us, of who we are, is a story worth telling… Currently, my pastor is doing a series called ‘My Story’, and he said in his sermon that, “The decisions we make today, determine the stories we’ll tell tomorrow.”
I remember listening to the stories my grandmother told me when I was growing up, and loved looking at her ashen hair, and her noble wrinkles. She looked beautiful and full of wisdom, telling about her long exciting life she had lived. They were stories about struggles, suffering, and despair, but also about conquering her hardships, about strength, fortitude, compassion, love, virtue, and the grace of almighty God. She is gone now, but when I struggle with self-doubt I derive my courage from her stories that evoked a stoic character. Deuteronomy 32:7 tells us to “Remember the days of long ago, think about the generations past. Ask your father and he will tell you. Ask your elders and they will tell you.”
One day I will be the one telling my life stories, so I want to leave my loved ones with a legacy they will be proud of, that will inspire them, give them strength, knowledge, hope, wisdom, and that will reflect the Christian race I had ran. Recently, I have learned about the expression “living the dash”. When posted on someone’s tombstone, it refers to the dash between the year of their birth and the year of their death. We don’t like to think about our mortality because it makes us feel morbid inside, and perhaps scared and accountable for the way we live our lives. But this dash refers to the essence, and the meaning of our existence. Psalm 90:10,12 concurs that “Seventy years are given to us, some may even reach eighty, but even the best of these years… soon they disappear, and we are gone… Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.”
We are at the beginning of a new year, which is the perfect time to examine our lives, and make conscious efforts to live a life full of goodness, to love one another, to forgive, to stop negative thinking, to improve our attitudes, to stop being victims of fear, self-loathing, self-pity, to shed harmful habits, to reach out, to help, to spread joy, compassion, to make significant Godly impact with our lives. Let’s all embrace the gift of life, and cherish our moments, and build strong relationships, so our legacy will be a cherished one by all. Life goes by fast, and as Pastor David Landrith says , “Are you living the dash , or are you dashing to live?”
Sir Walter Scott wrote this relevant and eloquent poem called “There Breathes the Man”, in which he points out that if we rush through life consumed by material wealth, titles, accolades, and self-importance, we will end up alone, unremembered and un-honored:
“High though his titles, proud his name
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,
Despite those titles, power and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self
Living shall forfeit fair renown, And doubly dying, shall go down,
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor’d, and unsung.”
By Roxana Phillip-Hackett
Roxana is a wife of one, mother of two, who loves to share her faith with sincerity and honesty from her home in Hendersonville Tennessee.