My great uncle passed away two days ago at the age of 89. Uncle Sandy was someone who spent a lot of his time investing in the next generation. He had a heart for teaching younger people about the importance of character, and in his golden years, following a successful career as the president of a major aerospace manufacturer, developed a nationwide program in schools that does this very thing.
Yesterday my dad forwarded a message from Uncle Sandy. As he lay dying from pancreatic cancer, my uncle penned some parting words for his family. They were words he wanted us to read after he had left this world.
Death and dying have a way of distilling all of life down to the things we most value. Kierkegaard said saints are those who have learned to focus their lives around the most important thing. Maybe there’s a sense in which we do our best living when we keep the reality of death in front of our faces- not morbidly, but in an honest, truth-telling way. That is when all of the distractions fall away and we’re left to focus our attention on what we most desire and value from life.
Uncle Sandy’s last words were a reminder of this:
Dear Loved Ones,
I have come to the end of the road and the sun has set for me. Why cry for one who has been set free? Miss me but not with your head bowed low. Remember the love we have shared over the years and the beautiful life the Lord has blessed me with. This is a journey we all must take and each must go it alone without our outside loves, but with the knowledge that we are going to a better place and that they will be coming along behind us. It’s all part of the Master’s plan, one step along the road to home. So when you are sad and sick at heart, go to our friends and relatives and do good things. Miss me but let me go.