Slip-Sliding Away

“Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:4

It is a gorgeous day in late May. My parents are here from Florida for a week, school is out and summer vacation has begun, freeing me from my teaching duties. My son is mowing the lawn and my daughter is playing with our two dogs, Chestnut and Annie. I, as usual, am in the kitchen adjusting the herbs and spices in the large amount of potato salad that I’m preparing for the barbecue we have for family and friends each year. My mother has been undergoing treatment for a rare autoimmune disease, but is responding well and we are hopeful that she will be cured. Basking in the love, smiles and sunshine, I savor these moments and imagine that life will continue on this way forever.

That was fifteen years ago… This afternoon, among the falling leaves of autumn, I walked down to the pond to visit my parents’ graves under the large hickory tree. Gazing at their gravestones, I remember my mom’s happy chatter as we washed the dishes together and my dad’s dry humor as he chided me for missing a crumb while wiping off the dinner table. I also recall their last days and wish I had been able to ease their suffering. I miss them so much.  

Earlier this morning I talked to my daughter in upstate New York. Both she and our son are now married and living in other cities. We see them occasionally and speak to them over the phone often. On this overcast October day, as I walk alone from the pond through the pasture, I can still hear children laughingly calling the dogs to come play. It isn’t the same now. Those days are gone forever.  

As we see the progression of and changes in our lives, we all at some point question the purpose of our existence. In the short term, purpose can be found in our relationships with friends, family, community or work. But, friends leave, children grow up, parents die, communities change, and careers end. All that is left is the same question that has haunted and driven mankind since the beginning of time: What is the meaning of it all?

In Ecclesiates 9:9 Solomon said, “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which He hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity”. We are commanded to live joyfully. This excludes living with guilt, fear, avarice, jealousy, and hate. These emotions are all expressions of the ego, the self, and do not lead to joy. Are all of the desires and conflicts we experience worth the regrets and losses that we must later suffer? Is there a way we can change our attitudes, and ourselves in the process, to live joyfully and give joy to others?

This same verse also reminds us that our days are “vanity.. Life passes quickly for each of us and nothing we can do of ourselves will insure that we, and those we love, will live on forever. To think otherwise is prideful delusion. King Solomon, in his great wisdom, concluded that the whole duty of man is to fear (love and respect) Yahweh and keep His commandments. When we do this, we will live with gratitude, gladness and hope – despite our troubles – and, by our example, encourage those around us. We will also inherit His promise which is engraved upon my mother’s headstone; a promise we can hold onto: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev. 21:4

by: Debbie Reed

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