My husband's father died this week, and my husband is off attending to the matters of death. Sitting and talking about this to my friend, she mused about how a person's entire life is reduced to a dash between a birthdate and a death date on a tombstone.
As poignant as that thought is, what's probably more important is what would be there if there were space to write it all up?
Most of us didn't invent any world changing machine or develop a cure for a disease. So without a huge thing to take up the space, we have to base our life evaluation on the way we lived in small ways, every day. That thought set me on my heels a bit. I thought how such an evaluation now, while there's time to change it, might serve as sort of a preliminary judgment day. I decided to perform a "Life Hygiene Analysis." I asked myself some questions to determine what my 'dash' would look like if my life ended today.
Is my spouse glad that he married me, or wishing he hadn't? Do I act more like a helpmate and companion or a heckler and critic?
Do my friends say I'm a good friend? If each of them could tell a story of their most memorable moment with me, what story would they tell? Would I like to hear it?
Would my kids say I'm a good parent? Did I give them the time and attention they deserved, or was I too caught up the the harried details of day to day life to really tune in? Through my example, did I teach them how to love fully and be content or merely how to work and worry and grab for more stuff?
When I visited people, did they look forward to my arrival, or anxiously await my departure?
Did I take the time to enjoy the REAL wonders of the world--the ones that the Universe has provided for us every single day--like a baby's toothless smile, the wet kiss of a dog, the smell of cut grass or the rain, the feel of a cool breeze ruffling my hair on a hot day--or did I merely lurch mechanically from one task to another?
All in all, did I give more to the world than I took from it?
I think I did ok on most of this inventory. There were certainly times in my life when I didn't do as well as I do currently, but that's because I've grown. There are people whose impression of me is pretty lousy, but there would be more who'd provide a rebuttal on my behalf. As far as the balance of my own behavior, I think I've tipped the scales slightly in favor of the good. When you add in my contribution of my children, I'm confident that my positive influence grows substantially. I'm good with all of that, and I think I can forgive myself for most of the times where I've missed the mark.
The one question where the tears flowed as I gave myself this test was when I evaluated my ability to enjoy the tiny wonders of life. I too often overlook the abundant opportunities God has given me to feel extreme joy over ordinary things. I have taken far more time to muse over the problems of the world that I have to love the world, even with its problems. I have often treated as ordinary the extraordinary fact of life. I have walked, looked, or driven past the vast and amazing wonder that is the earth, and thought of it as somehow pedestrian. Of course I've been moved by the beauty of particular settings, but I needed to appreciate it more often and more deeply.
Maybe more than anything else, I realize that I've failed to appreciate that other people, for all their faults, are my fellow travellers in a Universal journey. They are here to learn and experience, just as I am. They will make mistakes, and they will sometimes learn their lessons, just as I do. They will screw up and they will redeem themselves, slightly and incrementally, as I have. And most of all, if they are incredibly lucky, they may come to appreciate the wonder of the life they've been given.
The dash between your birth and your death is a wonderful, glorious, beautiful, joyful, and amazing journey. May you enjoy and appreciate the wonder of yours.