We celebrated Easter yesterday!
We not only had beautiful flowers in the house and in the yard, but we hid brightly colored plastic eggs (candy filled) for the grandchildren to find, entertained guests for a late lunch (egg casserole, bacon, fried potatoes, biscuits, fresh fruit salad, and a variety of muffins and cakes etc.), and had pleasant conversation with family and friends while the kids played outdoors.
Thankfully, we ate that sleep-inducing food after attending church (trying to stay awake in any public gathering subsequent to that meal would have been impossible), where we celebrated the resurrection with hundreds of others in our brand new church location.
As my readers know, I am cautious about using this blog to promote or discuss religious beliefs (I have another blog where I present those kinds of thoughts, http://www.thegodstory.wordpress.com), and so I am not writing today with any agenda of that sort in mind.
Nevertheless, the season of Spring, the gorgeous Easter Sunday following the blood moon, the television shows discussing Jesus, the brightly colored candy and decorations in stores, as well as the sixth anniversary of my father’s death (on April 9) . . . have gotten me to thinking about the one aspect of all our life stories that is seldom discussed.
Or . . . as I was thinking of it, today . . . the Finish Line.
Everyone will experience it: believers and unbelievers, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. There is an end for us all, a finish line (if you will) that we must cross. It matters not whether you see this line as just a transition to another state of being, or whether you see it as a true END of existence in any form. Either way, it is a line we must all cross.
And for all parties concerned, those with a professed faith, and those without any professed faith, that line is drawn at the same place: death.
A friend of mine lost her husband of 40 years last week; he was 73 years old. We attended his funeral, offered what comfort we could, then went on with our lives – only, we were slightly more aware of the fact that we, too, would one day be crossing the same line he had crossed. For him, it was no longer just a concept; rather, an experience.
Much is made of the final words of Jesus as he hung on the cross: “It is finished.”
Theologians, of course, have provided various interpretations of his intent in those final words. What exactly was finished? His life? His mission? His agony? His ________?
The truth is, we will all say, “It is finished.” We may not say the words, because we may not be able to do so. But we will all say it with our passing; we will all finish.
What concerns me is not whether or not I’ll finish; rather, how well I will finish.
I was never a very fast runner. But decades ago, when I used to run regularly, my friends and I trained to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. We had run some 5K and 10K races, and had run from East Memphis all the way down Poplar Avenue to the Mississippi River in Downtown Memphis, timing our run so we could arrive downtown just in time to run in a 15K Oktoberfest race, all in preparation for the coming marathon.
Clearly . . . I was much younger then.
I will never forget the excitement (and the pain) as I crossed the finish line at the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC in November 1983. The Marine Corps band was playing “When the Caissons Go Rolling Along” at that poignant moment, just over 4 hours after an 80mm howitzer had signaled the start of the race.
I go back to that memory whenever I experience hard times, and I recall the pain I felt, the prescribed Butazolidine (race horse medicine, now illegal) not quite equal to the task of taking away the pain caused by my tendon as it struck an inflamed bursa sac with each and every step.
But – I finished. And it was glorious!
And what of your life’s 26.2 miles? The marathon you are in?
For we are all in a race of sorts, are we not? Our purpose. Our intention. Our mission. Our agony.
As human beings we share this together. This human . . . race, we sometimes call it. Will you finish well?
I watched my father finish his race 6 years ago. Then I watched my mother cross her finish line 2 1/2 years ago. They finished well. Brave, resigned, lucid, and prepared . . . they embraced their “ending” with aplomb. I have watched as close friends have broken the tape at their respective finish lines, and passed to the other side; it is awesome to witness the end of a life lived well.
Sometimes it is as if the musical score of our lives gives us a chance to repeat an important musical phrase when it instructs us as follows: D.S. al fine, i.e. go back to the Sign, then proceed to the End.
But proceed to the End we must. Eventually, we all cross that line.
The message of Easter, of course, is that endings can be deceiving, that finish lines are sometimes starting lines in disguise, that there is a fine line between graduation and commencement.
Just my musings. I know.
But I do think about these things a great deal now. And when my own race ends . . . and I cross my finish line . . . I hope to raise my hands high above my head, press my chest against the tape, and burst into whatever awaits me on the other side.
I expect there to be a crowd cheering. And I expect to hear a band playing my favorite military song about the caissons. You see, fifteen years ago I received my instructions: D.S. al fine. I went back to the Sign, and repeated the phrase. Now I am bound for my finish line.