By Joan Bay Klope
“Died at 75 from a short illness.”
It is a line I see, with variations, quite often. But this time it describes the death of a man in the community where I grew up. He was an engineer, a husband, and father of a classmate. He and his family lived a block over from my childhood home and I remember his gracious, quiet manner with fondness.
His wife of many years passed away some months before with no warning and I understand he was never able to find his way without her. His children struggled with their own grief as well as his. When I clicked this week on the link opening the online obituary listings in my hometown paper, the news did not come as a complete surprise.
A much larger reality did cause me to sit down for a minute: news passed on by childhood friends and family members has changed throughout the years.
During my college days letters were filled with newspaper clippings detailing college graduation notices, engagement announcements, and wedding nuptials. In my 20s and 30s I read about endless numbers of new babies. I also read about moves to new communities, changes in careers, home purchases, and creative attention to dream building.
Today, as I parent young adults and enter year 49, news is found online, e-mailed, or text messaged to me. Too often I read about the passing of old teachers, family friends, and childhood neighbors. Retirement planning, serving aging parents, illness and divorce dominate.
Bright beginnings have given way to the nitty-gritty of life and a voice deep inside urges me to think deeply and press on: Now is the time to dig in, work hard, persevere, give it my very best every day and in every way. It is time to stand bolstered against the tide that pulls some under. It is time to be rooted in faith as never before.
It’s also time to clean out the unnecessary and unused, to start this spring season organized and resolved. Ask yourself, What shape is my faith in? How might I work as a faith-filled individual during the next few months when the days are long and the situations occasionally complicated? What goals do I have and what steps have I outlined for myself toward meeting those goals?
For most of us the requests roll in with little reprieve. The world is full of needs. Where do you fit in? Have you identified your gifts and asked God to send you to places where they can be used? Is your faith strong enough to serve others or is it time to bolster your own spirituality by allowing others to serve you?
One of the most intriguing activities I have ever participated in is to pen what I think people might say about me. I did this after writing my own dad’s obituary. I resolved that mine would be as noble and realized that if I outlined what I valued most and who I hoped to become, then I could check my life choices against this written intention.
Writing a description of who you want to become and what you plant to do to grow is a wonderful and enlightening experience. It is about life and passionate pursuit, hopes and dreams, disappointments and glorious overcomings. It speaks to the fundamental you: What kids of person are you today and hope to become? What will grab your attention, your energy, your resources? What things energize and define you? How do you intend to demonstrate bravery? What makes you weep? What sets you into deep resolve and purposeful living?
Once you have outlined what you value most, balance this insight against your plans for this spring. Is all your running around helping you meet your goals? Are you saying yes but exhausting yourself and never reaching the levels you envision for yourself? What role does faith play in your life? How is God making use of you in the lives of others? Can you begin to detect God’s voice by asking these questions?
Most of all, are your activities going to have any eternal significance for you, your family and friends?
It’s spring! Time to bloom.