“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.” — 2 Timothy 4:6
I recently attended a memorial service for a man I had never met. I had prayed for Jack Smith extensively because of the love and concern of his sister, who was a member of the church that I pastor.
Out of respect for Jack and a deep love for his family I went to the graveside that hot, hot July day. I fully expected the service to be a brief and routine one. I must admit that I left the graveside stunned by the powerful impact of Jack’s contribution to his own memorial service. Jack had left a “Last Letter.”
“Last Letter” is actually an ancient tradition of soldiers and missionaries who, as they board a ship, write their family and friends a letter that they think might be their final communication. The practice of this ancient tradition was to inspire a new generation to think and pray through the reason for their life – and possibly the sacrifice of their life for a cause greater than themselves.
Except for a few personal comments to his wife and daughters, this is what Jack Smith had written:
“There will be some who will say that my life has been cheated or cut short by cancer. I feel that is very far from the truth. I mention the following, not to boast, but to emphasize that my life has been blessed rather than cheated:
I have accepted the unearned gift of eternal life and forgiveness of my sins through my faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ;
I have enjoyed 28 years of a good marriage to a wonderful and virtuous woman. Stacy’s price is far above rubies;
I have two outstanding–not to mention, gorgeous daughters, who have grown into adulthood as productive citizens. Emily and Natalie are my greatest accomplishments;
I have lived to see and hold the first of my grandchildren;
I was brought up in a loving family. I have received unbelievable acts of love, care, and sacrifice from my four sisters, their husbands, and their families;
I have enjoyed a career of diversity and fulfillment;
Academically, I have earned a Ph. D.;
I leave this life with my financial assets out-weighing my liabilities;
As for disappointments, failures, and injustices, God has released me from the burdens of bitterness and promised me His just resolution;
Cheated?!? Heavens No! My life has been filled with blessings with the promise of the blessings to have no end, but to last eternally!
Abraham Lincoln: And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count…it’s the life in your years.”
Jack Smith’s “Last Letter” challenged me that day. What are the things in my life that really matter? What carefully chosen words should I have for those who are precious to me? I realize I can only write well if I have lived well.
Since that day, I have been writing and living…with a new passion! Thank you, Jack. I’ll see you soon. To those of you who are reading: What will you be writing?