I was at a staff meeting last weekend and was explaining how I felt the need to train others more diligently in ministry skills to ensure that they were as independent as possible. In that explanation, I mentioned that I will be dying soon (no I have not been diagnosed with any illness), which elicited various responses along with rolled eyes from most of the substantially younger staff. Later one of them took me aside and said, “You really need to stop saying that. You’re not going anywhere for a long time.”
Isn’t it interesting how we assume that we will each live to a “ripe old age” like some of the fairy tales we heard as children. We often project that assumption on to others, the presence of whom we seem to enjoy and perhaps want to enjoy for years to come.
A mere three mornings after my “dying soon” comment, I was meeting a spiritual son at a local restaurant. When he left, I stayed a little longer to read and prepare for my next meeting that day. I got up to use the restroom, and then found myself sitting back in the booth, the back of my head aching and bleeding. The store manager called EMS and I was evaluated and sent home under the supervision of that same spiritual son and my son James.
I later learned that another customer found me on the floor in the restroom trying to clean up the blood I had spilled there (probably from years of training to always clean up a mess you make). Four days after the incident, and a week after my “dying soon” comment, I still have no memory of how I fell, how long I was on the floor bleeding from a gash on the back of my head, or how got back to the booth.
We really do make assumptions that we have all the time in the world to accomplish things that are important to us. People smile as they tell me that I will live into my 90s. Yet I watch the news and hear how people younger than me are dying every week. Some of those may be suicides, like the recent death of Chef Anthony Beaudoin, but heart, lung, and cancer problems abound, as do unexpected accidents – like a fall in a restroom.
A verse that I have been reading almost every day for a few months has been helpful in my thinking, hoping, planning: “And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18, NASB). I have been referring to this has my End of Life Verse to go along with my Life Verse which I claimed in 1975: “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted int eh house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green” (Psalm 91:12-14, NASB).
What verse(s) drive your life, which could end sooner than you think?