We’re exploring a vision for life suggested by the mystic poets—a vision that includes five outcomes we would wish for in life. Last week we looked at the wish for a life well liberated, a life that breaks out of the cages that can keep us from living.
Today, we’re thinking about the life well loved. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if, at the end of life, you could look out and see all these people that love you? It’s all there in that moment. But it doesn’t just happen automatically, does it?
So what is the inner resource, the inner music of the soul that helps us achieve that? I think this one might surprise you. Francis of Assisi writes:
“Tell me about your heart,” my every word says,
Speak to me as if we both lay wounded in a field and are
Gazing in wonder as our spirits rise.
And one of Shakespeare’s sonnets that ends with these lines:
This thou knowest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must lose ere long.
They are pointing to what we’ll call transitoriness, which is the positive, creative use of the fact that we know our life will end.
Here’s the message: If you forget that one day y0u’re going to leave here, you’ll begin thinking there’s something more important in this world than love. But if you won’t forget the end—not today, not tomorrow, and not next year—then you will never, ever make the mistake of believing that there is anything in this world greater than love.
John Gunther was a travel writer in the 1940s; he and his wife had a son who at 15 years old developed a brain tumor. This was a terrific kid: bright, outgoing, wonderful friends. The parents devoted themselves to caring for him; they brought in dozens of doctors, spent their life savings. The boy lived a little more than a year before he died, and then Gunther wrote Death, Be Not Proud, telling the story. Afterwards, the mother was asked, “If you could do it over, would you do anything differently?” She said, “I would have loved him more.”
Upon the death of his wife, Carlisle wrote in his journal, “Oh, that I had but five minutes more that I might tell her all.”
Isn’t it amazing what death puts into perspective? How it shrinks down problems? Problems have a way of getting bigger and bigger, but if we just remember our end, it helps us keep things in their proper perspective. People who’ve lost a child don’t think about how messy the kid’s room was.
The poets are reminding us: You’re going to pass, so instead of fearing and denying, why not use that knowledge to help you remember how important love is. (Personally, I need that reminder. I guess we all do.)
“Oh, that I had but five minutes more, that I might tell her all.”
Today, we have that five minutes. Find someone you care about and look them in the eye, look at them in a way that makes time stand still. And tell them all.