As you and I get older and hopefully wiser, thoughts often turn to Bucket Lists. Trips to places in America or abroad like Rome, Ireland, Greece, London, Paris. Maybe to skydive like President Bush on his 80th birthday. Go to a Broadway Show in New York City.
Then, there are Bucket List Items that involve resolving unanswered questions which have gone on far too long. Or, reconciling relationships with others before our time on Earth ends and our eternal life in Heaven begins. To close revolving doors of disappointment and disillusionment which never seem to stop spinning or to complete the circle on an unsatisfying relationship before it is too late.
Through marriage, I have a dear cousin, Meredith, in California who is beautiful, extremely intelligent, very literate, and gifted in photography. She grew up in one of the most beautiful environments in the world–the Monterey Peninsula. Her dad built a small ranch home in the 1950s at the north end of 17 Mile Drive just north of Pebble Beach. On a teacher’s salary, he purchased four lots on which to build his home. Meredith grew up hearing the surf pounding the beaches from her open bedroom window amidst the smell of Eucalyptus trees and the salty breeze.
My cousin’s mother was kind, caring, loving, and stable. She provided the kind of childhood for my cousin to achieve the most in life. However, their mother-daughter relationship left much to be desired. Meredith always wanted to be closer to her mom. Meredith wanted to know why her mom said some hurtful things; why her mom was not more accepting of her; and why her mom was too judgmental on occasion. Those lingering questions on her Bucket List were the most important ones for Meredith to check off before her Day of Rest came and her Eternal Life began.
Then, Meredith’s mom died of a chronic lung ailment. Meredith faced the harsh reality that these items could never be taken out of her Bucket List. The answers would never come. The circle of her relationship with her mom would never close. What on Earth could she do?
Meredith decided to take a walk in the Monterey Cemetery, Cementerio El Encinal, in the heart of downtown Monterey. Maybe, just maybe, amidst the quiet beauty and serenity of its gently sweeping lawns, historic monuments, and sentinel oaks, at this place she might gain some clarity, peace, and understanding. Would there be a life lesson from God while walking among the headstones of the dead?
As Meredith turned to view El Estero Lake from a clearing in the Cemetery, a ray of sunlight pierced through a canopy of sentinel oaks and illuminated a headstone in front of her. If the headstone had lips, Meredith would’ve heard a voice, a God Thing, which said, ‘Come to me, my dear child. I have written on me the words you need to hear.”
Meredith saw the inscription. Above was the name of the woman who died. Below was her date of birth and date of death. The aged headstone was worn and hard to read. More than 100 years had passed since the woman was buried. Stepping closer to the headstone Meredith read six words that spoke volumes to her. “She Did The Best She Could.”
Meredith sat down on the grass in front of the headstone. Her questions had been answered. The Bucket had been emptied. The circle of love and life with her mother had been completed. Deep in her heart, Meredith knew that her mom had done the best she could. That was enough.
God has spoken to us in Scripture on doing acts to make us more prepared to go home and be with God.
Make straight paths for your feet. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
1 Corinthians 2:9
What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, in prayer please show me the way to prepare for my eternal life with You.
God, please give me the strength to address my shortcomings in my relationships with others, especially the members of my family. That I might serve You in the way I ask for their forgiveness and understanding.
God, where possible, please inform me in Your truth as to how and why any of my relationships are broken or unharmonious–that I may one day understand what is not understood at this time.
God, please help me to die after living a life of faith–a life filled with acts of loving You.
Last, through Your mercy and grace, may I be more prepared each day to return home to You. To a place without Bucket Lists. For with You there will be nothing left for me to do except to love. Amen
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love, go to the Bending Angel website.