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|Here I stand at the edge of light and darkness. Behind me, the years of my life, and the events, emotions, and experiences that filled them. Before me, waiting for me to step out of the light, the vast unknown. I have reached the end of my journey and the next phase beckons. But let no man or woman pity me as I pause on the precipice of death's door, for I can look back on a wonderful life. I stand here filled with peace, absent of fear. That surprises me, because I wasted so much of my life on that useless emotional irritant. But I dare not have fear now, lest I question the single truth that allowed me to survive all hurts and suffering – that God shall receive me when night settles on my day of living.
Have I regrets? Primarily, that I did not exhaust all opportunities to be kind to others. Yes, there were moments of greed when there could have been giving; selfish acts, when selflessness would have been worthier; judging of others when I should have been more concerned with my own shortcomings. There were times when forgiving others would have relieved me of burdens that only hurt me; moments of worrying, when I should have been doing anything else at all; and way too many hours filled with fear, when faith would have served me far better.
It's true what they say, as the end draws near one does see more clearly what is really important. I don't regret that I did not make more money, buy more stuff, or try harder to impress the people around me. No, regrets and losses should be measured in those countless missed chances to hold a hand, praise a child, comfort a friend – in other words, to express love in every possible way. I believe I was at my very best when I reached out to others with a caring hand and a loving heart. I wish I had done that more. Looking back now, I feel no pride for what I got in this life – only for what I gave. And was I a success? Well, that is for others to judge. But for me, my life was a true success only to the degree that my family was pleased with how I lived, my friends valued my presence in their lives, and others benefitted from kindnesses I committed when no one was looking but God.
No, I did not live out my youthful plans and aspirations. There were no mansions, trips around the world, or fame. But I am fulfilled, for I lived in homes full of love, enjoyed a rich journey of beautiful experiences and emotions, and was nurtured and cared for by the people who mattered most to me. I realize now there were many times that I was asking for the world, when I should have been praying for my soul.
In the autumn of my life, like falling leaves, I began to let go of those things that stifled my emotional and spiritual growth. So I shed (as best I could) materialism, pride, vanity, envy, and self-aggrandizement (the hardest to give up). At the same time, I began to seek those things that would nourish and affirm that which was best within me. And so I embraced truth, integrity, inner beauty, generosity, and of course, love -- for myself, for others, and for God, the source of all love. That was when my life changed. I no longer strived to find happiness, for contentment was inherent to my new way of living. Ironically, when I stopped asking for the world, it was given to me – though not in the form I had imagined in my immature mind.
And yes, there was pain and suffering along the way – that's just part of the deal. I have no complaints really, for in my personal experience, every ounce of suffering was matched by a pound of happiness, each tear by a dozen blessings. I believe that sorrow stretches the heart so that it can hold more joy. Moreover, it was through adversity that I learned the most – about my character and capabilities, what is really important in this life, and how much we all need one another. Many of life's truths are revealed to us in those dark hours when our souls are still and we are desperate for understanding. I learned, too, that every time I struggled to climb another mountain, I found myself in a higher place. I know now there were times when I asked for relief and the cessation of pain, when I should have been praying for strength and looking for what I needed to learn from those hardships.
Anyway, whether my life was short or long, and whether it was easy or difficult, will not really matter in the end. It was a good life because I laughed and loved in the company of some of God's finest. And did my life have value and meaning? I never spent a moment wondering about that. This question was readily answered for me in the eyes and hearts of those who loved me; and indeed, what renders a life its meaning more than simply being loved?
To my loved ones I say, all the joy I've known I owe to you. Oh my, how happily I have lived among you. You enriched every day of my life with your support and unconditional love. You anchored me in times of triumph so that I never lost my humility, and in times of suffering so that I never lost my faith. You see, your love carried me through it all. I tell you this honestly, there were times when I sat quietly and just allowed myself to feel the full intensity of my love for you and yours for me, and I was overjoyed to tears -- sweet, blissful tears. What a blessing to know such love! I've no right to ask more of this life. I understand now that a full, rich life is not defined by big events, great accomplishments, or grand adventures; rather it is made up of thousands of small moments in which kindnesses, compassion, and caring connect us to one another. How I treasure all the precious moments we shared, and the hugs, tears, and laughter that filled them – for these were the gems and jewels that made me a wealthy man.
I hold the cherished memories close to me now as I prepare to leave you. Please carry your remembrances of me in your heart and celebrate how our lives were blessed with our time together. Though I will be gone, I will live on within you, and I will watch over you. And when an occasional warm, tender feeling rushes through you for no apparent reason, perhaps that will be my spirit touching you just briefly with my love.
No sad good-byes now, for my parting is not an end, but rather it is a magnificent beginning. I am filled with serenity as I go toward the darkness, in search of that great light where I will dwell in the presence of our Lord. I take great comfort in knowing that although our paths may separate for a while, we will continue on a course to the same divine destination. I shall wait for you there, and I will take your hand when it is time for you to come over and join me.
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| A postscript from David