A number of years ago, my husband and I attended a 'Focus Over Fifty” conference at the Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs. Dr. James Dobson, founder and president, spoke to the captive audience of senior saints on the topic: The Second Half of Life. He emphasized the brevity of life and concluded by saying he would like the following inscribed on his tombstone:
'When I reach the end of my days, a moment or two from now, I must look backward on something more meaningful than the pursuit of houses and land and machines and stocks and bonds. Nor is the fame of any a lasting benefit. I will consider my earthly existence to have been wasted unless I can recall a loving family, a consistent investment in the lives of people, and an earnest attempt to serve the God who made me. Nothing else makes much sense.”
For centuries people have searched for the meaning to their existence. Why am I here? What is the purpose for my life? These are the questions each one of us must answer. Paul tells us, 'It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for” (Ephesians 1:11, MSG)
Nothing makes you focus on what's really important in life more intensely than losing someone you love. I remember the first night that our son was in heaven, Steve and I lay in bed talking about what Bryon must be experiencing. For 21-1/2 years we had nurtured, bandaged, nursed and cared for our son, who had courageously struggled to survive a rare and incurable skin disease. We reflected on the incredible privilege of being Bryon's parents. His life had enriched ours beyond words.
Memories were everywhere: the swing in the backyard, his dog Higgins moping around, his Sunday school class, dozens of baseball hats, hundreds of collectable bears, boxes of unused bandages, his blue Cavalier in the driveway, scraps of soiled bandages found beneath seat cushions, and blood stains on the recliner—all reminders of our son.
Twenty-one years is not a long life span; but Bryon packed in a hundred years worth of living in his short journey. Usually, parents teach and train their children; but Bryon often became the instructor and we, the learners. Truly, he had wisdom well beyond his years. These are a few of the things he taught us about life:
- Every day is a gift from God. Don't waste it, but use it to the fullest. There isn't time to complain or fret about what can't be changed.
- Laughter is the cushion for life. It helps smooth out the rough edges and makes the difficult places bearable. Nothing cures a heavy heart any faster than a good belly laugh!
- Memories are the stuff that life is made of. Take time for celebrations, parties, family vacations, and hanging out with friends…it all goes by too fast.It all goes by too fast.
- It's okay to cry. Tears are good for you. There is something about crying that helps to heal your heart and God really takes notice when we shed tears.
- Don't forget that the end is just the beginning—heaven is forever! The most important thing in life is to make sure your heart is right with God. Don't give Him the leftovers, make Him No. 1.
Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, 'We are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus; so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).
About the Author
Reverend Lillian Sparks is an ordained minister and internationally known speaker. As the former national director of the Assemblies of God Women's Ministries Department, she coordinated the denomination's Women's Ministries program, involving over 400,000 women and girls. In addition to her administrative responsibilities, Sparks was the editor-in-chief of Woman's Touch.
Lillian is the author of Tough Cookie, Parents Cry Too, and newly released Don't Cry for Me. They tell the story of her eldest son, Bryon, and his lifelong battle with a rare skin disease. Bryon went to be with the Lord in 1995 at the age of 21.
Sparks holds a B.A. in Biblical Literature from Northwest College of the Assemblies of God and a diploma in Sacred Music from Zion Bible Institute. She and her husband, Reverend Stephen Sparks, have three children and reside in Springfield, Missouri.