It seems death is all around us, everywhere we turn. You turn on the news and death and more death and more horror smacks you in the face. You lie down at night and the next morning, you hear of a death of a loved one. A few weeks ago, I felt compelled to do a lesson for my teens on Sunday that was basically a “You better always be ready, because you never know when you might go out of this life.” They looked at me with this “We’ve heard this a million times” – one of them even said, “We’ve heard this before.” I replied with, “Well, that’s true, but you can’t hear it often enough.” The very next morning, one of their classmates went out of this life in a tragic car accident. The same week, a parent of their classmates left this world. The next week, another one of their classmates’ parents died suddenly, in a freak string of deaths that has rocked this community.
There are several people in my life right now that are moving their way into eternity. They have terminal cancer and have been given mere days, in some instances, and mere weeks in others. One of these people is my Aunt Janie. She has Stage 4 stomach cancer and has planned her funeral and knows that within probably days, she will meet her Savior. I went to see her yesterday and had to spend part of our visit apologizing to her. See, my Aunt Janie was always just an adult in my life, someone I hardly knew, but the truth is, I didn’t take a lot of effort to get to know her. Why? I have no idea. It is shameful, and I told her so yesterday.
Aunt Janie was married to my dad’s twin brother Ray Vannest. They had two boys, ages two and three or so, when Ray said one day (at age 23) that his head hurt and he was going to lay down. He never got up. She was a widow at age 21, with no advanced education and two small boys to care for. Her son, Randy, was killed at age 16 in a terrible accident when he rode his bicycle to the store to get milk. His older brother Raymond was working on the roof when he heard a screeching of brakes and looked up to see his brother fly through the air. So now she has lost a husband and a son. Raymond went to the Marines as soon as he graduated from high school, so she was once again alone.
When I think about all these tragedies and hardships, I think that there has been a world of strength and wisdom in this incredible woman, and I had never spent enough time with Aunt Janie to avail myself of this wisdom. A few years ago, we had a family get-together, and we played this game we like to play where you make up crazy answers to random questions, things like “What should you never do at a funeral?” My children and family members will come up with things like “French kiss the decedent”….Anyway, the goal of the game is to try to guess who said which thing. It is a hilarious game, full of fun and laughter, but it also is a clue to what kind of silliness is inside of a person. When we played this game, Aunt Janie was the most imaginative. How did I not know this about her? She was so much fun!
Yesterday during our visit, I apologized to her for not taking that time to spend with her, and now realizing that her days are almost over, it is MY LOSS that I did not do so. I am feeling that loss and re-examining my days and how I spend them. I have people in my life who I am estranged with, who have lied about me, backstabbed me to the point that one day I just said, “You know what? I’m done with this. I do not have to live this way, and I’m just not going to any longer.” I had heard a quick snippet on the radio by T.D. Jakes, I believe, that said, “Why are you chasing after people who want nothing to do with you? Why do you try so hard to get them to like you when you know they don’t and they won’t?” He said, “Stop. Just stop. Use your time to chase those who want something to do with you, use your time to help those in need and will accept you rather than begging those who hate you to love you instead.”
For some reason, that hit a nerve, and it released me from these relationships that were toxic, that sucked the life out of me and beat me down. But I wonder if I did the right thing – and is God calling me to try to re-establish those bonds, to try to open those doors again. I will say, just thinking about it sort of gives me a shiver down my spine, a pit in my gut. But that is where God does His best work, isn’t it, in a soul who is willing to hear His voice, even though it’s not what they want to hear? I thank God that He doesn’t give up on us, that He calls us to change our ways, even when our spirit has hardened itself to “MY WAY, NOT YOURS.”
I would urge you to look at those around you with the thought that you might not always have the benefit of that relationship, you might not always have more time yourself to get ready to meet God, and it is time we live to the utmost TODAY, using all God has given us to better this world around us. Get out there and get to know those incredible people in your life or that incredible Savior who has been calling you for years – don’t have my regrets when it might be too late….
My name is Teresa Evans. I am a wife to Tom, a retired Circuit Judge, and I am a court reporter by trade, a mother by God's grace and a lover of Jesus Christ. I've grown up in a family blessed with many miracles, and have received multiple miracles myself.