Early last Sunday morning while on a weekend getaway with my husband, my cell phone buzzed the nightstand. I reached over and grabbed the phone and saw that it was my mother calling. I, instantly, knew something was wrong because mom doesn’t usually call me so early. “Hello.” As her voice crumbled under the weight of tears and pain, she told me “Mother has passed.” I took a deep, heavy sigh – deflated. I had no words. They were buried under the shambles of my heart as I began processing my grandmother’s death and packing up to make my way back home to be with family.
Later that evening as I was sorting through boxes trying to help my auntie find funeral home papers and policies, I received a text from someone I hold dear to my heart announcing the birth of her newborn baby.
In one day. In that one single day, death and life were juxtaposed — put side-by-side.
Juxtaposition: two things being placed close together with a contrasting effect.
The morning brought mourning, that evening brought joy and that night brought perspective.
This is it.
God had laid before my eyes our beginning and our end. No matter how we shake it, we will all have both of those days in our lifetime. It’s the one thing we all have in common. Life and death.
What that day did for me was help me refocus. It reminded me of a few things, and I thought I would just share them with you all, if you don’t mind:
1.) Time keeps right on ticking.
I have this clock in my office, right, and I promise you that it is one of the loudest clocks I’ve ever heard in my life. Every second ticks like thunder. Sometimes, I find it hard to even concentrate because it is so loud, but as I sit here now, typing this blog for ya’ll, I wonder how my life — our lives–would be different if as we walked about our day, time ticked loudly in our ears making us more mindful of how we are spending our days– fully aware of how many seconds we are losing to things that don’t matter. Would we be better managers of the time God gives us? There are no refunds on time spent, you know. Once it’s gone; it’s gone. You can’t get it back. So, how will you use the time you have been given?
2.) Don’t let life get in the way of loving those you love.
There was a short season in my life where I had gained so much weight that I wouldn’t go see my grandmother because she was sure to tell me that I was gaining weight, and I didn’t want to hear it–even it it was true. I settled for weekly phone calls instead of face-to-face visits. In fact, I didn’t go to any gatherings with people; friends or family because I was so ashamed of how big I had gotten. It was me, not them. I let my own insecurities steal precious memories and time that I can never get back. I got busy losing the weight, and I got back to making memories with my grandmother long before she passed. Although my weight was physical, I’ve seen people carry weight that is spiritual or mental that keeps them at arms distance from loving those who love them. We have to make a habit of dealing with life so we can love. Sometimes, that requires us to pick up the phone and make an appointment with a therapist to help us process life so that we can get back to loving.
3.) Give people their flowers while they are living.
One random day, I went to the grocery store and picked up three beautiful bouquets of flowers: one to give to my mother, one to give to my auntie and one to give to my grandmother. I had my children along with me, and when they asked me if it was someone’s birthday, I used it as a moment to explain to them the importance of giving people their flowers while they could see and smell them. I’ll never forget how happy they all were to see me and the kids stopping by their houses bringing flowers for no reason at all but to remind them that they are loved and thought about on days outside of birthdays and holidays. If we are not careful, our love and expression of it can become robotic and ritualistic.
4.) It’s what you do for others that will outlast you.
Several people said this about my grandmother: she was faithful to show up at the rest-home to visit and feed people for years up until her late 80s. She was always giving somebody something when they left her house, and she loved everybody’s child like they were her own. What people remember about my grandma is how she loved them in deed, not in word–but in deed. Stella realized love was an action verb, and it should always be in present tense. That’s a lesson we can all take from her.
5.) Make memories and take pictures as much and as often as you can.
I get on everyone’s nerves because I am always pausing to take a picture. After church, at family gatherings, at sporting events or anywhere my family and friends are gathered, you are sure to find me snapping pictures or recording video. I do it, not to post on social media, because thousands never make it to the platform. But, I do it because I understand the sensitivity and the importance of moments in time. I can’t get them back, so I capture them. Pictures allow me to freeze time within a single frame so when I need to pull on memories, I have a visual to help me bring the past into the present.
6.) That dash matters.
It is what we do between our birth and our death that matters. That little dash that stands between our birth date and our death date matters. It will be what defines us. My grandmother’s dash was defined by stewardship and service. She was a good steward over money, her children and grandchildren. She served people faithfully from within the church, on the usher board and in the world, by visiting the rest home everyday to feed and sit with people –sometimes complete strangers so they wouldn’t feel lonely. Her dash was filled with God’s love and compassion.
January 30, 2022 taught me a lot. It made me pause long enough to get my attention, and I got the message loud and clear. When life is given, death is promised, and legacy is found in what you do between the two.
I wish you all love, peace, prosperity, and, of course, the reminder that there is a hearse waiting for all of us when our number is called. I pray you understand the importance of that dash and that you have the daring audacity to leave a legacy that outlives you. That’s certainly what I plan to do.