After I finished at the Women's Conference at Hope Church yesterday, I stopped by my house to eat and let the dogs out for a few minutes, then hurried (never over the speed limit, of course) on to Hospice House. Sam was sitting by Jamie's bedside with the saddest look I've ever seen. She'd slept most of the morning, so all he'd done for hours was watch the woman with whom he'd shared the last sixty years inch her way toward eternity.
She woke up while I was there. I offered to feed her and, to my surprise, she ate. We started with chocolate pudding. She thought it was delicious. I'm a fan of chocolate, so that made sense to me. When I removed the lid, the applesauce filled the room with the aroma of apples. It tasted "so good", she said, and I understood that, too.
I fed her the first bite of pureed peas, and she whispered, "That's good." I like peas, but I don't like pureed peas. The "old Jamie" would never have eaten pureed peas. She would have had plenty to say about them, but it would not have been "that's good". She ate every bite.
Something is different in her. She is staring death in the face as it draws ever closer. The trivial no longer matters. Her priorities have changed and she is changed, too.
Having loved ones near matters. The texture of peas does not.
I wish Jamie had experienced these new priorities sooner. Her life would have been so much more joyful. She'd have had fewer arguments and more laughter. She'd have had more love. More peace.
I don't mean that all Jamie's priorities were wrong. They weren't. She loves Sam and she is a generous woman, loved by many people. She's had a good life.
Jamie, though, is just like the rest of us. She likes what she likes. She wants what she wants. Just as I do. Just as you do.
The problem comes when those things we like and want assume a higher place in our priorities than they should.
Maybe you've never had a problem with priorities, but I have. Maybe you've never preferred something so much that nothing else would do, but I have. I've wanted it, and worked hard until I got it. It turned out, though, that getting the thing I most preferred never made an eternal difference.
Only Jesus can do that.
It's easy to forget that priorities determine how we live our lives. They direct our every step. The things that matter most to us, in the end, shape the course of our years and our families, even our careers. When work is more of a priority than family, our spouses and children suffer. When financial security is more important than our faith, everything else in our lives takes a back seat.
Priorities matter, and we would do well to get them in order now, rather than on our deathbeds.
What does a changed priority matter if we wait until our last few days to change it? Not much. It doesn't improve the quality of our lives or the lives of our family or the world around us.
If we want a life that matters, we need to start living that life now.
Love more. Laugh often. Spend less. Give freely. Reach out to all you encounter, the most beautiful and the most unlovely, for all of us walk a treacherous and difficult path through this life.
Today, take a look at the life you are living, at the priorities that drive you. Is this how you want to step into eternity? Is there something that needs to change? Then change it.
Stop waiting and start living.
Jesus had some suggestions about lives lived well, and He summed it up in two sentences we'd do well to emulate. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22:37-40)
That's enough for now. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about how my priorities changed. For today, let's ask ourselves, "On my deathbed, will I be glad I've lived my life this way?" If not, it's time to change. (we'll talk about that tomorrow, too.)
Thanks for joining me on this journey through life. I'm glad to be sharing it with you. Let's live it well.
Here's the links to the other stories in this series: The eternal destination, The Vigil, A Little Help from My Friends, and Keeping My Word.