My Grandmother passed away Sunday morning. I was able to say goodbye, kiss her on the forehead, tell her I loved her, and compliment a life well lived. The gospel song On Jordan’s Stormy Banks expresses these emotions well “I am bound for the Promised Land”, and Carolyn Meador Ragland certainly is.
My experience during the last 4 weeks has been a new one for me. At 29 years old, this is the first significant death I have been a part of. My streak has been incredibly blessed, I know so many people who have lost loved ones much earlier.
Death re-frames our lives around what truly matters to us. External thoughts and worries fall by the wayside, and our priorties take shape. We have all heard variations of the old saying “Nobody lays awaiting death, wishing they had spent more time at work”. I’ve thought about this statement a lot today, and consider the trajectory of my life. I am blessed to do meaningful work that I love, so extra time at work usually means I’m impacting the lives of other people. There are parts of work I could do without, but that’s true of anything. So I didn’t spend too much time thinking about work today. I thought about other parts of my life, what else I won’t die wishing I had done more of. For example:
“I wish I had played more video games”
“I wish I spent more time looking at Twitter trends”
“I should have posted more on Facebook”
“I wish I had more fantasy football teams”
“Why didn’t I accumulate more stuff?”
Watching my grandmother pass along, I can’t imagine she was thinking anything like “Why didn’t I watch more soap operas?”. Each generation has their vices and distractions, but our connected world certainly has more than anyone else ever dreamed of, even 10 years ago. I blast social media with some frequency, and I want to be clear that my beef is not with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or anything else in the social world. My passion is turning our own choices in to life-giving priorities and habits. Today does have me thinking I may dial back my involvement in social media. It’s not bad, but I have more important things to do.
To take a dose of my own medicine, I need to reflect on what the 5 most important things in my life are, so when I’m on my death bed, I can look back and say, “I’m glad I did that more of that”.
My faith as a Christian is what my whole life (should) center on. When I consider the Creator and Savior of the world has redeemed and forgiven me, it’s almost too wonderful to consider. And I don’t, because this soul-jarring truth doesn’t impact my life enough. The Creator of the world wants to be in a relationship with me, and I give him 10 minutes a day (if that)! Your faith or beliefs may be different, but whatever your life centers on, I encourage you to spend more time on your Faith than on your Facebook.
Family, friends, and whoever comes in my path. Even at this great time of family grief, I didn’t choose to put family and friends on different levels. We’re all in this life together, and support each other. They’re both incredibly important to me, and I can’t stand the memories where I chose to occupy my mind or time with lesser activities than engaging created humans that are right in front of me.
3. Writing & Teaching
As this year has gone on, my resolve to write and teach has strengthened. It’s important for me to write, and it’s encouraging to see and hear it affirmed. But I can’t lose sight of how important writing is for me personally, and focus only on rising numbers and potential income. I need to write, and I feel compelled to do so.
4. Male Development & Growth
This is intergerally tied to my work at Camp Rockmont. The responsibility and opportunity to help and teach the next generation of men is a powerful motivator. I am blessed to do this at Rockmont, but the wonderful thing about this task is it can be disconnected from my current work. I can help and teach young men whether I am at a camp, a school, a church, or as a coach. I think so often we become tied to a certain job, and think that our calling lies in that specific work. It’s not true. When you can detach your calling from your work, you become bulletproof.
5. Exercising & Outdoors
I love being outside; exercising, running, lifting, swimming, climbing, kayaking, hiking, biking, waking up in the woods, and being surrounded by life older and bigger than myself. I know I won’t be an old man thinking, “Shouldn’t have seen the Yosemite Valley, Grand Canyon, or walked to the top of Mt Mitchell. What a waste of time.”
Allow me to throw a dose of reality on my preaching. I’ll screw up, spend too much time on social media, ignore relationships, slack off at work, snap at people, and get tired of writing. For a while. The IMPORTANT practice is to daily return to a reminder of what matters, and what is worth spending my time on. I hope you will do the same, and give yourself a break when the inevitable fall comes. We’re broken people, leading broken lives. Each day begins anew, with the opportunity to re-frame the things you want to build your life around.
The past several days, The Avett Brothers song “Through My Prayers” has been constantly swirling in my head. I can’t post the song, due to copyright, but the album is for sale right now on Amazon for just $3.99. The following video is a heartfelt commentary by Seth Avett, and it will resonate with anyone dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Question: Have you lost someone close to you? How did it impact your life? What choices did you make? If you feel led, please share in the comments.