By Norris Burkes Mar 13, 2016
In my new role as a hospice chaplain, I must ask patients about their final goals. I ask things like, “Do you have any place you’ve wanted to go, but have never gone? Have you left anything undone or unsettled?”
These are the types of questions that were haunting the music minister in the church I pastored in the early 1980s.
Bob always wanted to see the United States from a recreational vehicle, but he’d delayed his plans all his life. So on his 65th birthday, he and his wife bought an RV. A few weeks later, our church members saw them drive out of the little town of Hopland, Calif., headed east.
A month later, I received an early morning phone call. The caller’s voice was trembling. It was Bob.
“What? Who? How do you mean?” I asked groggily.
“My wife,” he said.
Through his sobs, I heard him explain he’d been driving the Ohio interstate when he and his wife began to argue about something insignificant. Suddenly, she turned to him and said, “I’m going home.”
“Go ahead,” he said, not knowing exactly how she meant that.
Then, in one terrifying instant, she opened the door and slid herself onto the road at 60 mph.
A postmortem exam revealed that Bob’s wife had undiagnosed brain tumors that caused her thinking to go awry. Her life really ended long before she knew it. They had both waited their entire life to seize their day – then, suddenly it was gone.
Much like this couple, there were two revolutionaries in the Easter story who always wanted to seize their day and change their world, but somehow never got around to doing it.
We meet them as they hang on crosses, dying on each side of Jesus.
One man ridicules Jesus, but the other hints that he’d never taken the time for a spiritual road trip. Perhaps he’d hoped to find a truer path for his life than dying for a meaningless cause.
But thankfully in his last few life breaths, he expressed a desire to find a more spiritual path. With that request, Jesus granted him a road trip to paradise.
Talk about networking. This guy finally was in the right place at the right time.
Yet you have to wonder how this man had spent his life.
Had he spent it always wondering about spiritual things? Had he delayed the spiritual journey because it wasn’t the right time in life? It was a wonderful miracle that Jesus was there to stamp his paradise passport, but what might his life have been like had he started his journey much earlier?
Spiritual road trips are sometimes expensive, but the cost of staying home almost always is a deflated life. It is easy to live life with the ambiguity of the “someday,” but there is a time when you must give your final answer. There is a moment when you must decide to take your life out of the “always-wanted-to” category and place it into the done category.
If you were a hospice patient today, what would you say if I asked what you wanted to do before you die? What do you want to see before you die? Or what is it that you need to settle in your life?
Whatever it is, do it today. See it today. Be it today.
– Write Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Twitter @chaplain, or call 843-608-9715.