“Died at 21, buried aged 71!” is perhaps not the life summary you’d want your gravestone to read, but it’s sadly apt for the many who are ‘Doing Time’, like a prison sentence, rather than ‘spending precious time’ and really living.

I was struck by the insight of a hospice worker, “For many, coming to stay in the hospice is more about ‘learning to live’ than ‘learning to die’.”

How many of us only come alive and really live on holiday or our day-off, at a party or with friends/family?

All too easily life in between holiday, party and meeting up can deteriorate into simply ‘doing time’ till we ‘spend it’ the way we want. In the process a large part of us dies, dissatisfaction follows and life dribbles on or peters out.

Ecclesiastes chapter 3, popularised by the Byrds’ hit song ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, describes the ‘opportunity time’ God gives, “… times to be born, die, plant, uproot, kill, heal, tear down, build up, weep, laugh, mourn, dance, hug, not hug, search, give up, keep, discard, tear, mend,
be quiet, speak up, love, hate, war and peace, etc …”

Time is ‘opportunity’, but it’s also ‘oppressor’, ticking away. We all have a date with death, when the whistle blows and ‘life as we know it’ ends.

Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism have a circular view of time, characterised by re-incarnation, which sees death as entry into a new life-form. What creature or who you return as (after death) depends on how well you’ve lived your life.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam see time travelling in a straight line. At death comes judgement and entry into an extension of whom you have chosen to become.

Jesus’ famous word on ‘eternal life’ describes God’s Love that offers us all the gift of everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

This ‘eternal life’ is a choice we make for the here and now, not just for when we die. It’s ‘steak on your plate while you wait’ not ‘pie in the sky when you die’! As someone put it:

“Yesterday was history,

Tomorrow is a mystery,

Today is a gift of God,

That’s why it’s called the PRESENT.”

Every second is a precious gift for spending, not just ‘time off’, ‘time to party’ or ‘time with loved ones’.

What will our gravestone read? What will our last words be?

I love (one of my heroes) Eugene Peterson’s (fairly recent) dying words, shared with loved ones on his death bed

“LET’S GO!" said with a beaming smile, as if Jesus, the angels and loved ones were beckoning him home.