This is Part 3 of a series about Richard and his wife Marjory. Richard was admitted to hospice for non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver when he was 66. In Part 1, “It’s a wonderful life”, we learned that all work is honorable; and that any life can be “wonderful” when lived with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, “as unto the Lord”. (Colossians 3:17-23). In Part 2, “Accidental or Providential”, we learned that, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Richard enjoyed his work as a staff and sports writer for the Portsmouth Daily Times but his real passion was seeing others come to know Christ Jesus. I’ve come to respect the way Richard kept working, kept producing and kept serving through years of illness and suffering. But Richard’s body is wearing out and it’s beginning to hold him hostage. A couple months ago he shared: “As far as energy, I’m about done for…I’ve been thinking about whether or not to stop taking my medications. My nurse told me that there will probably come a time when my medications will be like I just didn’t take them. I don’t know what to do. Is God ready for me to go on or does He still have something for me to do? How do you know when it’s time to tell everybody bye? I don’t know what time it is.”
So I asked him, “What time does it feel like to you?”
And he replied, “I think it’s between 11:30 and 12. I can tell a difference. I’m having more pain and I don’t have any endurance. But no one has told me its 10 minutes to 12 yet. And I believe there is still something I need to do.”
I suggested, “Richard do you think that maybe one of the things you still need to do is for us to finally write the newspaper column series we’ve been talking about?”
I asked Richard if he remembered the song by “Chicago” titled, “Does anybody really know what time it is.”
Then we listened to it on YouTube: “As I was walking down the street one day; a man came up to me and asked me what the time was that was on my watch and I said; does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care about time? If so I can’t imagine why. We’ve all got time enough to cry…fly…die.”
Richard and I happen to share the same favorite book of the Bible, “Ecclesiastes”, and we simultaneously started quoting the following passage: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to be born, and a time to die…a time to keep, and a time to cast away…He has made everything beautiful in its time…for there is a time for every matter and for every work. (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-17)
Men have been trying to predict the times, the “last days” and the “end of time”, for centuries; but Jesus himself said that no man knows the day or the hour, but we should watch the signs. (Luke chapter 21). When Jesus ascended into heaven a crowd stood paralyzed in amazement. Then an angel appeared and the people asked when Jesus would return and the angel said, (paraphrased), “What are you doing standing here looking up in the sky. He will return just as He said he would.”
In other words, “Get back to work, get back to living!”
One thing I’ve observed during my 20 years as a hospice social worker is that life progresses through developmental stages or “seasons” with corresponding questions and challenges. But we typically sigh, “What good am I? What’s the use? Who cares? What difference does it make? Or what else can I do?” But it’s when we turn our sighs into questions and earnestly seek the answers that we continue to live and move forward. Any basketball coach will tell you that games are won in the transitions, but it’s easy to get lost in the transitions isn’t it?
I’ve come to realize that sometimes it’s better to leave someone with a question than an answer. So I’ll leave you with five that our chaplain, Pete, frequently presents to our hospice patients: 1. How is your relationship with God right now and how is it affecting how you live your life today? 2. Do you have a physical or material blessing or possession that you need to pass on to someone? 3. Is there anything you need to tell or share with someone; a prophetic word, a special insight, thought or sentiment, good or bad? 4. Is there anything nagging at you about the past, present or future that you need to do something about? 5. Is there something you need to start or finish?
I challenge and encourage you to earnestly seek the answers to these questions, for in doing so you will continue to live until the day you die, and more importantly, you’ll be ready when your clock strikes midnight. We need to be ready!