“Today is the only day. Yesterday is gone.” John R. Wooden (The ‘Wizard of Westwood’)
It is Saturday morning – Christmas Eve. The last three days have been very busy for Carol and me. After hosting a party for L’Arche (a local organization we support) on Wednesday, attending our company’s (Hackbarth Delivery Service) party on Thursday, Carol’s family gathered at our home for an annual Christmas celebration on Friday. Over 30 relatives joined us.
Later this afternoon, we will join our older daughter, Kelly, and her family for a church service and another party immediately afterward. On Sunday, there will be one more gathering for lunch. Whew!
For the moment, we are enjoying a break in the action. As I sit down on the couch in what we call the ‘pool room’ in our home in Theodore, Alabama, Carol has set the television to one of her favorite country stations. Nothing unusual here. We both love country music. My wife was ‘country’ before country was cool (words in a country song), and I followed not long after.
Hot Twenty is the name of the program we are watching. Broadcasting from a military base in Bahrain, the hosts are interviewing individuals who are part of our Armed Forces. Each person is encouraged to share a holiday greeting for family back home and then to request a song to be played.
A common theme emerges from several selections — “Don’t Blink” is followed by “If I Die Young,” then “Live Like You Were Dying”’. My verbal observation to Carol states the obvious . . . the song lyrics are all about death. She replies that the broadcast is being recorded in the Middle East. Any military base in this area of the world, even if not involved in direct armed conflict, involves danger. Risk is understood when you sign up for any branch of our military. Comes with the job. If stationed overseas, especially in the Middle East, potential perilous situations are elevated.
While the song lyrics point out the factual reality of death, I believe the underlying core message is about living. There are no small moments. The older I get, the more I think about the end. Even though that day looms ahead, I am totally convinced that my life is not about dying. It’s not about that future moment. It is about living. It’s all about the moments between now and then.
One of the requested songs, Live Like You Were Dying, recorded by Tim McGraw, is a story about a guy’s response to a wake-up call that is prompted by an unwelcomed medical diagnosis. What does he do?
“I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying . . .
Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying . . .
I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin’
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again
And then . . .”
All success in life is built on the possibility of today. Even long-term goals, those that take months to achieve, are accomplished one day at a time.
Our great military service personnel can teach us about life and death. In a high-risk setting, they understand at a deeper level what I want to embrace in my cozy, safer environment. What about you? Do you possess any level of comfort that encourages you to postpone what you really want to do today? Comfort can be our enemy.
What would you do if you knew that your time was much shorter than what you expect? What would you do if your time turns out to be something different than what you had hoped? What if years turned out to be only months? Would today become more important? Would today be any different?
The question I wrestle with is not what I will accomplish during the next three years. Even the New Year’s Resolutions of things I want to finally get done this year are not the focus. Life is asking me to decide what will I get done today.
How shall I live today, knowing that . . .
And then . . .