The Last Week of Life
If I knew I had but one week left of life on this earth, what would I choose to do? It’s not a thought that crosses my mind most days, but maybe it should. Perhaps I’d make more of each day. Instead, it is usually precipitated by some tragic news like cancer, an accident, or Russia invading Ukraine. And suddenly time seems more valuable.
It seems we generally think time is something we always have more of…until we don’t. Singer/songwriter Jim Croce was 28 when he and his wife had their first child. After taking some time off for family and before beginning a grueling 2 years of concerts, he prophetically wrote, “There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.” Little did he know when he boarded a small plane after his concert in Louisiana, on his way to yet another concert in Texas, that the pilot would suffer a heart attack on takeoff. The plane crashed into a pecan tree killing all on board. Jim Croce was only 30. Earlier in the day he had written a letter to his wife, Ingrid. It arrived after his death.
“This is a birth note, Baby. And when I get back everything will be different. We’re gonna have a life together, Ing, I promise. I’m gonna concentrate on my health. I’m gonna become a public hermit. I’m gonna get my Master’s Degree. I’m gonna write short stories and movie scripts. Who knows, I might even get a tan. Give a kiss to my little man and tell him Daddy loves him.
Remember, it’s the first sixty years that count and I’ve got 30 to go. I Love you, Jim
We deceive ourselves, thinking there will always be more time…time to forgive, time to tell others how much they mean to us, time to mend fences, time to watch our children grow, time to do something nice for someone else, time to really love others. I grew a new appreciation of time when my husband died of testicular cancer at the age of 27, leaving me with a newborn. I decided quickly that I needed to make a “bucket list” of things I wanted to do. After all, one never knows how much time is left. I promised myself to do something on the list at least every 2 years. So, I learned guitar, rafted the Grand Canyon for a week, did an immersion program in France to work on my French, got scuba certified, and sought to quench the wanderlust in my DNA by traveling to new countries and experiencing new cultures. But the real gift was not on that list. As my daughter grew, I discovered the unconditional, unimaginable type of crazy love that would make a person be willing to die to save another. Time and lists became secondary.
That’s the kind of crazy love that Jesus and the cross represent to me when I contemplate Easter. As the holiday approaches, I drive by the cemetery near my house and can’t help but notice how many beautiful flower arrangements are on the gravesites. And I wonder…do dead people get more flowers than live people? If so, why would that be? (I can’t help it…that’s just the way my brain works!) How many times did the people buried in those graves receive flowers while they were alive? I once sent my mother flowers on MY birthday, thanking her for having me. (By the way, she thought that was very strange!) But random acts of love, kindness, and gratitude are our calling cards to reach out to a world in need.
And that’s what Easter is about…a wonderful, awesome, incredible act of love! Jesus had only one week to live on this earth…and he KNEW it! As throngs of Jews flocked from all parts of the known world to experience the yearly Passover week in Jerusalem, Jesus agonized over his last days before death. As he set out for the journey to the Holy City, Jesus knew during that last week he would be exalted by the crowds, betrayed by a friend, suffer, and die. I wonder if I might learn from how he chose to spend those last days.
He spent time with close friends in the village of Bethany, a couple of miles outside Jerusalem…not far from Gethsemane. He rode triumphantly on a colt into Jerusalem through the throngs of people who threw their clothing and some palm branches on the road before him. He participated in several discussions with religious leaders and teachers of the law. He had a wonderful supper with his disciples, illustrating the power of servant leadership. He warned those he loved of the dangers of hypocrisy and how to discern a good leader from a bad one. He taught the crowds exactly what pleases God: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.
He got righteously angry in the temple, turning over the tables of money changers and driving out merchants. Jewish law required those attending to pay a temple tax and sacrifice an animal as a sin offering. Since Jews came from all over, there were many currencies. But the temple authorities would only accept a certain coinage for paying the temple tax, requiring even citizens of Jerusalem to convert their money into the Tyrian shekel. Those traveling from afar would often need to purchase a sacrificial animal when they arrived. Unfortunately, many of these merchants were less than honest.
He prayed for his disciples and the trials they would face, even as he knew one would betray him. He healed a wounded soldier who came to arrest him. He endured illegal trials in the middle of the night. One of his best friends denied their relationship. He was spit on, beaten, mocked with a crown of thorns, and forced to carry a crossbeam to a place outside the city where he was crucified and died.
But that’s not the whole story. He forgave them, even those who seemed to take glee in his pain and humiliation. And a new week began. Death was defeated, the final sacrifice made. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our sin; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) It was this very punishment and suffering that Isaiah predicted would bring us peace and healing.
If I only had a week left on this earth, rather than be anxious about time, I hope I would seek to do extravagant acts of crazy love, to give flowers to the living, visit friends, share a meal or two, forgive those who have wronged me, and remember daily that I can experience a wonderful peace through Christ. Time, after all, is just a number. So why not begin now?
A visit to the Holy Land...
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny and deeply inspirational narrative. Please feel free to forward this Easter post to all your friends and family as well as share on social media. Thanks for the support!