Let's do a quick exercise.
Let's say you go to the doctor and the doctor says to you, "I'm sorry, but you only have two months to live." After the initial shock of hearing the news, what would you then focus on? What things would you need to say to people that you haven't already said? What relationships need to be repaired? What other loose ends need to be tied up? At the end of the two months, what should have been done so you can rest in peace? I realize that most people don't like to talk about these things, but I want you to seriously think about these questions for a moment.
After considering all of the above questions, let me ask you one more: Why aren't you already doing all of the things you want to do before you die? The truth is that none of us are guaranteed two months to live. It is sad to say, but some of our loved ones may not live for another two months. If this is the case, then why must we wait for a doctor to tell us how much longer we have to live before we start doing the things we already need to be doing?
The earthquakes in Haiti and Chile should remind us of this truth. James 4:13-14 says, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow, I will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell and make a profit.' Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and vanishes away."
I'm sure that the day before the earthquakes, many of the people who died in Haiti and Chile had no thought or idea that the next day would be their last on Earth. I also relate to this experience, because a dear family member of mine recently died of a sudden, massive heart attack. No one in our family saw it coming.
If there are some things and people we need to make peace with, what are we waiting for? If there are some things we have been meaning to say to some people for a long time, how much longer are we going to wait until we say them? As a pastor, I have conducted and attended many funerals. In my observations, I know this plain truth; regret stings longer than holding a grudge.
We must ask ourselves: Did what happen between my family member or friend and me was that bad that I can't or won't speak to them anymore?
Is it worth spending, five, 10 or 15 years avoiding them instead of reconciling? Make peace with your family members. Tell the people in your life how much you love them.
Since we don't know when our time will come, we should spend most of our time developing positive relationships. Speaking positive words to others is what we should all be known for. That's called "giving people flowers, while they can still smell them." Usually, the greatest moments in a person's life occur with other people. Birthday celebrations, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and having children, all have one thing in common: they are shared events with our loved ones.
Because we never know when our time will come, we should make the effort today to make sure our relationships are in order; first with God, then with others. That's how the ending should be.
The Rev. Kevin Swann is pastor of Ivy Baptist Church in Newport News. He can be reached at email@example.com.