In the last twenty-four hours I have spoken with two men whose disparate fortunes have caused me to pause. One is in his mid-sixties, one is in his early fifties, neither follows the Lord, and both are pondering their own mortality.
The first man engaged in a long conversation about myriad topics. Religion featured heavily, but we also spoke of life, work, science, and other things. In the course of conversation he mentioned that his business has recently “gone bad” and that at his age it’s hardly an opportunity to do something new. There’s no obvious path to follow from here. Yet, he noted how it’s easy to take for granted everything that’s good in life and focus only on the bad. He still has his wife, his family, his health, his mental capacity. That which cannot be bought, he has.
The second man provided briefer conversation, but amid his laughter and attempts at upbeat speech, his troubles fell like so much rain. Myriad health problems make it difficult for him to leave the house, and he’s finding that his doctors either can’t or won’t help him. He had a wife whose schizophrenia made their home an unsafe place for the children, and so she was taken away. He had a brother who died, and he has a sister who doesn’t speak with him. It seems he fully expects to die in the next year or two. In the course of his lamentations, he mentioned that he did do well financially through most of his life. Yet, that which he desires, he cannot buy.
Both of them are happy for people and conversation. Both are aware that their lives will, at some point sooner than they might want, end. Both appear to be living without any hope for what lies afterward.
These men and their fortunes seem to have been written into my life as a lesson, but I’m struggling to pin it down. Is it simply to be grateful? That money isn’t the important thing? All is darkness without God? Am I learning to love people where they are? To pray for people? Maybe it’s a lesson on listening to people, on valuing people, on talking to people? I see, but I do not understand. Or, the conclusion of the lesson has not yet been given.
I prefer to give stories that wrap up nicely, but I feel compelled to write this down even as it stands now.