For my life is full of troubles,
and death draws near.
Psalm 88:3 (NLT)
Over this past year, Wendy and I had the privilege of participating in a local service project through Union Street Players and the Pella Shakespeare Festival to record an audiobook for our local hospice. The book we made into an audiobook (with permission of the author and publisher, of course) is The Four Things That Matter Most by Dr. Ira Byock. Our local hospice gives a copy to all patients and their families, but most Hospice patients are not able to read, so the audio book was needed. In the book, Dr. Byock shares the four things that everyone should say and hear before dying:
- “Please forgive me.”
- “I forgive you.”
- “Thank you.”
- “I love you.”
I thought of “The Four Things” this morning as I read Heman’s lyrics in Psalm 88. The ancient song powerfully describes a person who is facing death and feeling the pain, anxiety and fear that accompanies it. Those who work in Hospice and palliative care like Dr. Byock can tell you about the spiritual and emotional pain experienced by those who are facing death and have unfinished business with loved ones. There is a writhing of spirit that can easily overshadow any physical pain the person may be feeling.
This morning I am reminded that how I end this life journey depends largely on how I handle my most important relationships today. I don’t want to hobble to the finish line in relational pain, emotional anxiety and fear. I want to finish strong surrounded by and taking comfort in loved ones with whom I’ve shared the sojourn. That will only happen if I take care of unfinished relational business today and not leave it for tomorrow.