David was a self employed business man; a logger and saw mill owner. He was in his mid-fifties when he was referred to Hospice with terminal cancer. I expected David to be a large man, rugged, reserved, self-reliant and self-confident; a model of “rugged individualism”. Boy was I wrong, as I frequently am when I form preconceived ideas, mere figments of my imagination.
I made my first home visit and David answered the door. He was about 5-8 tall, medium built, muscular, and dressed in blue uniform type pants and a white tee-shirt. His hand shake was firm and enthusiastic. I found him rugged but gentle, strong but humble and giving God the credit for everything good in his life. Tears filled his eyes as he talked about his family and friends, God’s love for him and his love for God. He was animated when sharing his vision of Heaven and how thankful he was that he would be going there.
Over the next few weeks David generously shared his beliefs, hopes, passions and values. He suggested that God has designed us for accomplishment. He talked about how God has scripted accomplishment into our very physiology; about how our brains reward us with a dose of dopamine, which gives us a type of natural high, when we complete a major task or project.
But one thing in particular made an indelible mark upon my psyche. One day Dave’s typically exuberant expression suddenly turned serious and sober. He looked me straight in the eyes, as if to say, “Pay attention. I’m about to tell you something very important.”
David shared, “Sometimes you might be working and out of nowhere the thought comes to you, ‘I wonder how old Jim is doing. I haven’t seen him for a long time. I should drive around the ridge to see him.’ But you put it off. A couple of weeks go by and again you think, ‘I wonder how Jim’s doing. I really need to stop and see him.’ But you get busy and again you put it off. A few more weeks go by and you run into Jim in town. You look each other in the eye and you both feel that something’s come between you and it’s not anything either of you did, it’s what you didn’t do.”
I recently tuned into a radio broadcast by Dr. David Jeremiah, a Christian pastor and teacher. It was the first of a two part series on procrastination. He quoted a poem by Charles Town which mirrored and reinforced the words that David had shared with me earlier: “Around the corner I have a friend, in this great city that has no end. Yet days go by and weeks rush on, and before I know it a year is gone. And I never see my old friend’s face, for life is a swift and terrible race. He knows I like him just as well as in the days when I rang his bell, and he rang mine. We were younger then. And now we are busy and tired men; tired with playing a foolish game; tired with trying to make a name. Tomorrow, I say, I’ll call on Jim, just to show him that I’m thinking of him. Tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes, and the distance between us grows and grows. Around the corner yet miles away, here’s a telegram, ‘Jim died today’. And that’s what we get and deserve in the end, around the corner a vanished friend.”