Imagine the beginning of your life as a book without any words; blank pages beautifully bound in precious leather but absent any substance. Your life and mine is an unwritten story anxious to tell its tale. Now imagine a pen next to the book. The ink in the pen will create the lyrics of your life: love, joy pain, excitement, intrigue, and many thousands more. Each page represents one day; God chooses the number of pages, only He knows the first day and the last. We create the experiences that fill the pages, deciding for ourselves the volume of life that each day will hold. So then, it is a partnership between ourself and God that creates the quality and fullness of the life we live, and that partnership is more evenly weighed than you may think.
Jay, my brother-in-law, died this month. It has been a time of emotional trauma as we navigate through unknown and unwanted waters. Yet we somehow have made it past (sometimes reluctantly and always bruised) each hour of every day. And we will survive the days to come, battered and tired beyond our human ability to comprehend, but survive we must, and we will.
During this period, while writing an obituary for Jay and listening to the many entertainingly emotional stories arising from the pulpit and barstool, it is abundantly obvious to me that Jay’s book contained too few pages. His novel should have been Tolstoyick in nature, with pages of fine print numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Still I believe the time of the last page was set by God for a reason I cannot comprehend, so I reluctantly choose not to question His contribution to the partnership. This however, I know to be true; on the last day there was not a single drop of ink left in Jay’s pen. He had filled each line on every page with life. Richly laughing and loving through each chapter; every paragraph shouting for friends and family, Jay boldly placed all others in line before himself.
The adversity named diabetes struck him in the seventh chapter like the iceberg to the Titanic. This time though, there was no shipwreck as Jay cast the berg aside like a melting snow-cone on a hot summer day. Hard working and equally hard in play, Jay scribbled and printed in his book with an energy that was obvious and envied. If the direction for his next adventure were unclear, Jay kept writing, knowing that every page would eventually be turned. Near his end the pages turned slower, but that only gave Jay more time to spend filling the lines with laughter and hope. His contribution to the partnership with God was at the highest level possible, making his book a timeless best seller. Now, their partnership has become a sole proprietorship; the two merging into one, living on in endless fun and games.
What does your book like? How many pages are blank, or only contain a few words? How often do our pages speak of work and responsibility, of belongings and not of family or friends? The ink is ours alone to use, so why do we let so many other people and “things” dictate what we write? How many paragraphs begin and end with God?
Is it time to for all of us to seize our pen and write our own story!
The death of Jay has made me test my priorities and my values. I have not used all of my vacation time for any year of the last ten, but I have more miles on Southwest and points at Hilton than most people you will meet. Over 400 friends and family members attended the two memorial services held in Jay’s honor, and although he had only been retired for three years, no one spoke what he had accomplished at work; we spoke of friendship, commitment, and love.
I am not questioning the need for a career; I question its priority in our book. I don’t question the need for serious thought; I encourage the need for laughter. I’m also not advocating only engaging in BIG adventures (vacations, travel), but also the important little things; such as attending kids sporting events, family game nights and regular dates with your spouse. I’m suggesting less of the doldrums and more excitement; I am proposing a reassessment of priorities to whom, and away from what, from sometime to now!
I am changing my vocabulary to phrases that say; yes, I’ll try that, or sure let’s go, and I’m coming home now. I don’t know the number of pages left in my book, but I think there is a lot of ink left in the pen. I intend to use every drop, just like Jay.