Here’s a conversation stopper: try talking about the topic of death with dinner guests. See how long it takes before someone wants to change the subject. Death and dying makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Even Christians, who have the promise of spending eternity with Jesus, don’t necessarily like to linger on the reality that death is a very real part of life.
They’re two sides of the coin.
As the saying goes, none of us gets out of here alive. A day is coming when you and I will draw our last breath. That’s inescapable. None of us knows how many days we will have on Earth. We have no control over if and when a disease will strike or whether an accident will cut short our days. All we are given is the opportunity to live well and, with the exception of a sudden, unexpected death, we also have the chance to “end well.”
Such was the case of Matt Lemmons, a friend of Focus on the Family who lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. Last fall, at age 44, Matt learned he was dying. This healthy, active father of three boys, was surprised to discover he had developed lung cancer–the kind of cancer typically found in smokers. After all, Matt never smoked, nor was he raised around second-hand smoke.
Matt and his wife, Robin, knew his days were numbered. Exactly how long he had to live was unknown. Rather than shy away from the inevitable, they decided to discuss a final way he might impact his community for Christ. When Robin learned their church, Stones Crossing, would be one of the 501 host churches for our Focus on Marriage simulcast conference, she and Matt discussed how they might make it possible to fill the house. The Lord placed it on their heart to touch the lives of as many marriages as was possible through this important resource.
After much prayer, Matt arrived at a plan. He decided to purchase all of the tickets for the event and, in turn, resell them for a substantial discount. In so doing, couples struggling to make ends meet in his community would be able to buy their tickets for $30 a couple rather than the $69 ticket price. Their plan worked.
Last month, on February 28, their church was filled to capacity with husbands and wives eager to strengthen their marriages. As much as Matt wanted to attend, he wasn’t there to witness the impact. He died on November 16, 2008. His wife Robin, however, was given an opportunity to tell his story and, as you might imagine, there wasn’t a dry eye in the auditorium.
Matt’s story reminded me of two things.
On one hand there’s the message of The Bucket List, a movie released in 2007 staring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Playing the part of two terminally ill men diagnosed with cancer, Nicholson and Freeman were informed they had six months to live. They decided to spend their remaining days on Earth indulging themselves in the things they always wanted to do before they kicked the bucket.
Matt could have chose that approach. And yet the path he took, namely, investing in others rather than indulging himself in temporal pleasures, reminded me of the words of Paul, a follower of Jesus, who wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Tim. 4:7). Like Paul, Matt wanted to finish his life as a faithful servant of his Savior, one who’s driving purpose was to advance the kingdom of God with everything he had to offer.
How about you? If you knew you had six months or less to live, what sort of investments would you make with your time?