She called me the day this article was due. A topic was already set in my mind and on the whiteboard I keep in my office, but her conversation constantly invaded my thoughts. My octogenarian friend is eight months away from becoming a nonagenarian. It is unlikely she will reach that milestone. It is unlikely she will read this article.
She called to tell me about a recent visit to the doctor. Extensive tests revealed the presence of an invasive disease. The doctor, a longtime friend, quietly told her it will steal her life in less than eight weeks. What’s more tragic is that long before it claims the breath in her lungs, this horrific disease will rob her mind of all memories. She will just exist until she doesn’t.
She’d only had the diagnosis for two days. Yet in that time, even she could tell a marked difference in her recall. She talks to her grandchildren daily by phone. She wanted to continue that until her inability to remember them became too painful for the grandchildren to bear. She said I was more than welcome to call anytime I wanted but she probably wouldn’t recognize me. I want every one of her remaining lucid moments to be available for them.
The significance and enormity of the moment weighed heavy on my heart. What do you say when you know it may be the last conversation? I stumbled over my inadequate words as the tears flowed. My gracious friend was kind. How unbearable it must be to make this same phone call over and over. Among her last words to me, she said, “I don’t really want to go, but I’ve had a great life.” Indeed, it has been remarkable.
This month’s On the Journey article is not the normal “go conquer the world” challenge befitting the ringing in of a new year. I have struggled with these words. The delete function on my laptop has received quite the workout. As I ponder and pray, the words reemerge in my heart. It is almost as though they demand to be typed. To what end? What would be the call to action?
It is this: Make every first conversation in 2023 your last conversation. Wait, that’s not exactly what I mean. Let me try again. Speak to all those you love and care about as though it were your final exchange. Remind them how much you love and care for them. If you have relationships with rifts, reach out yet again with the sincere hope of reconciliation and restoration. Leave no kind, gracious, and tender word unspoken.
Thank You for mentors and teachers who bless our lives. Sometimes they speak words of truth and caution. Often they speak words of encouragement and healing. Always the conversation is laced with love. Give us grace and courage to do the same for others.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
Sandy Wisdom-Martin serves as the executive director/treasurer for national WMU.