This is not a good week. A number of things happened that really threw my emotions out of kilter. And the week is not even over yet. But I think the main reason why I am feeling down is that it is the first anniversary of my father’s death.
I was taking a break at a bookstore, when I received an urgent phone call from my mum. She said that the hospital had called and we needed to be there straight away. I said I was on my way.
When we reached dad’s bed, we saw a group of nurses and hospital staff standing around. Someone had drawn the curtains around the bed. A doctor came and explained that dad had passed away in the midst of his exercises. His words registered vaguely. Mum and I rushed through the curtain and saw dad seemingly asleep. We touched him, we said our good byes, and we prayed, committing him to the Lord. It has been a year. And I miss him terribly. Just as I am sure that he is in the best possible place.
It may just be my imagination, but I seem to be hearing about a lot about people dying these days, either folks I know, or their relatives. Again and again, I hear the refrain, “life is so fragile”. You never know when it is your time to go. Which is why life is too precious a gift to waste.
We waste our lives in many ways. We hesitate to follow our vocation. We fritter our lives away in trivialities. Or we live our lives in a future yet to come, to the degree that we are not completely present in the present. And end up not giving ourselves fully to the moment at hand.
I am grateful to Annie Dillard when she exhorts us in her book ‘A Writing Life’:
“spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
Later she warns, “Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and you find ashes.”
Of course Dillard was referring to a life of writing. But she might as well be writing about life.
Many of us are worriers. I am one. A worrier lives in the future. His or her mental landscape is a land of potential possibilities. Often it is a land shaped by worst-case scenarios. Of course it is just being responsible to plan for the future. But there comes a point where we cheat ourselves, and our loved ones, of the present, because of our constant mental time travel to a future not yet here, a future that may not even unfold the way we think it will.
Maybe I am getting older. (Hey, no maybes here! I am getting older!) But lately I have feeling the need to live more existentially, thanking God for the gift of each moment and choosing to live that moment to the full.
I am teaching a course on preaching at Full Gospel Assembly. It is run every Tuesday from 8 PM till 10.30 PM. Last Tuesday, the topic was “A Theology of Preaching.” I was excited as I drove to the class. In truth I didn’t know if it would be my last class. I have many more sessions to go. This was just the second lecture. But more and more, I realize that Jesus is not going to give us the exact hour of His return. Or our return to Him.
So as I entered the class, and saw the dear folks there, I told myself, I was going to give this class my all. I was going to be completely present with them. I wanted to be God’s person for them. And I proceeded to try to do so. What role did that class play in God’s big scheme of things? I don’t know. That is not my call to make. But I felt good. I felt right.
The Psalmist reminds us to ask God to “…teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12 NRSV) I guess we should be counting the moments as well.
There is much truth in the aphorism, “It is not how many things you do in your life that counts. It is how much life you put into the things that you do.” We need to attend to the moment. After all, “For everything there is a season, and a time for everything under heaven?” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
When it is time to work, we work hard. When it is time to play, we play hard. When it is time to sleep, we sleep well. We live life with an intentionality that offers the gift of each moment back to the Giver.
I will not be able to be back in Penang for this first anniversary of dad’s death. But if dad knows about things on earth where he is now, he will know he is in my heart always.
I miss you dad. And I want to honour your memory, and our God, by recommitting myself to live my life to the full. Until it is time for the Great Reunion.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan