In the End…

When we were kids if asked what we wanted to be when we grew up the answers varied. For the very young the possibilities were endless – singers, movie stars, astronauts, ballerinas, architects, professional athletes, and so on. As we aged a bit we realized how much work and effort goes into being successful in those professions so we may have lowered expectations a bit. Yet, we all had dreams. I guess the one answer we would never have given is that when we grew up we wanted to be “old.”

Yet, aging is one thing all humans have in common and no amount of liposuction or cosmetic surgery will keep it from happening. Growing older is inevitable and eventually death. I don’t say this to be morbid; I’m just stating a fact. Psalm 89:48 basically says, “What man lives and never sees death?” The answer is no one. Of course, some die young, but the majority of people are living longer and longer.

We see more and more estate sales or auctions, the end result of an elderly person passing away. I can’t help but think that this is how we all end up one way or another – all our priceless possessions, treasured collections, and memorabilia either on sale at bargain prices or haggled over by loved ones. And something we once consider so valuable or full of deep meaning for us ends up in a bonfire, because it certainly has no deep meaning for anyone else.

Shades of the closing scene of the movie Citizen Kane come to mind. Kane was one of the richest men in the world and while dying he whispers his last words, “Rosebud…rosebud.” Who knew Rosebud was referring to the trademark name for a cheap little sled on which he was playing the day he was taken away from his mother and pictured a time when he felt loved???? (Seriously, who knew? It certainly wasn’t made clear in the movie. It was only after I read an interview by producer, director, and star Orson Wells that I found out.)

But I digress. The point is that even he who dies with the most toys is nonetheless dead, and most of those toys are sold to the highest bidder.

As I look at my china cabinet loaded with bric-a-brac from events like a World’s Fair or an excursion to Italy, I know those things aren’t really going to be meaningful to anyone but me. They probably won’t even bring a high price at my “end of days” yard sale. But I had a lot of fun gathering them from here and there.

There’s not much in this world of value in the long run. Happy is the person who knows this mortal home is a temporary dwelling.

Recently an elderly woman we knew was told she had a very short time to live. She didn’t really seem concerned. The doctor said, “You do know what I’m telling you, don’t you?”

“Yes,” she said. “You’re telling me I’m going home to be with the Lord and I don’t have to pack. I hate packing.” She was ready to meet her maker and leave it all behind.

Unlike Citizen Kane, Joseph Addison was a real person – a British essayist, poet, playwright, and politician. His play Cato, a Tragedy dealt with individual liberty versus government tyranny. It was well known in the colonies and believed to be a literary inspiration for the American Revolution, as well as several well known quotes from that era such as Patrick Henry’s, “Give me liberty or give me death” and Nathan Hale’s, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” I love his final words: “See in what peace a Christian can die.”

When my time comes I’ll be old. I’m already almost there. Old is not what I noted on my “what I want to be when I grow up list” when I was a kid but I think I secretly aspired to living a long and productive life. I’m happy to have made it thus far.

At the end of my life I’m hoping to gracefully leave it all behind. Let someone else sell it, haggle over it, or haul it to Goodwill. The old hymn lyrics “this earth is not my home, I’m just passing through” comes to mind. After all, our home is really with God and nothing can separate us from his love – not even death. In the end, this is really all that is of any value. (Romans 8:35-39)

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