I bought a good vacuum, a sleek German-made canister that hums while it works, determined and swift. It’s uncharacteristic for me to splurge on an appliance. My washer was the cheapest Home Depot could offer. The dryer was donated. But this was my thought:
Maybe this will be my last vacuum.
This fills me with both joy and dread. I’m 66, which is a lot of birthdays, but the meaning is vague and ill-defined. I’m okay with being old, but then I meet someone 92 and feel…pretty good! Today I feel quite alive, although my knees groan, my eyes pull hard to focus. I misplace things – groceries left in the car, keys retrieved from the trash. And words. What’s with the hide-and-seek? The one you need the most is snickering in a closet, so you pull out the first reasonable alternative to cover the embarrassing lapse. I feel the panic, then blush. Uncovered.
I mentioned joy. Growing old is growing closer to the finish line, to “the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). I pare down, stripping off everything that hinders – vanity, pretense, ideologies. Daily. And then there is legacy. My children, my children’s children and the story God has given us. I can say, Look! The curse has been broken. Here’s the torch…now run! And they are.
But I also mentioned dread. I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years, and not to sound too morbid, but I’ve seen Death… a lot. I’ve seen him come suddenly – one minute I’m chatting with a patient, then the sense of “impending doom” every nurse dreads. The eyes roll back, the color shifts to blue and breath just stops, like a wind-up toy. No exhale, not even a struggle. Gone, despite chest thumping and shocking over and over. Gone. Or there’s the Death that likes to pull up a chair and put his feet up, waiting for God knows what, until you are so tired, even Love says Enough already. You turn away, and Death slips out the back on a last breath, quiet as a cat.
I’ve thought about the death I want, like ordering takeout. Hold the pain, and I’d like the Drop-Dead-In-Your-Sleep option, if available. Or a fast cancer, so I have time to say goodbye, but not waste away like an unwatered houseplant. And please, just not a Dumb Death, like getting sucked out of an airplane window. It’s futile, I know. And besides, God tells me He will be there, the only one Death has to listen to.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 115:16
He doesn’t say there will be no pain or suffering. But He gets to call it, then bend down and scoop us up ever so gently.“Come home,” He will say, and I will be light as a small bird. I think He loves watching our faces when we first open our new eyes and behold His glory face to face. It’s all worth it.
Time counts down. Much has been wasted, poured out on things temporal and vain. Words spoken I can’t get back, and unspoken that lie in the grave. Lord, make my words count. Writer, speaker, nurse, friend. Crazy lady that stops strangers on the street.“Do you know Jesus really loves you? Do you know this Love that reaches into the foulest trenches of the earth, that pulls out a filthy, squirming mad drunk and calls her MINE, Chosen, Holy, ‘who are his rich and glorious inheritance’?”(Ephesians 1:18) I know who I am. I am His.
However, I did not get a map. And never, I mean never could I have ever imagined where He would lead me. But He promises provision, and hidden treasure along the way. I think there’s more as you get closer to the end. Or maybe it’s just that I move slower, so I notice the smell of leaves turning mixed with salt air, the cardinal’s call, my husband’s cut-wood smell, his crushing embrace. There is joy in the going, even with bad knees.
Lord, write my story with brave words, soaked in mercy. As you order my steps, direct my speech into your Truth, immersed in grace. Make me fierce in your love. If I fear anything, let it be wasting the time and words you’ve given me here. This is not my home. But I do have to vacuum it occasionally.
Thanks, Jesus, for making it all last to the very end – strength by strength, words, wisdom and a good German vacuum cleaner.