In the living years

By Loren Hardin – 

This is part one of a series about Michael who was 60 years old when he enrolled in hospice services with end stage cirrhosis of the liver. Michael was an electrician, a member of the “International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers”. He is one of seven children and stated “I’m two minutes older than my twin sister, Michelle, but she’s the one who taught me to always say ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’.”
Michael is essentially homebound but enjoys going to church and out to eat when he feels up to it. Michael has bought a newspaper every day for almost 50 years, but told me, “Now I read it mainly to see who’s died”. Michael also enjoys watching sports on TV. He and his wife, Diana, are “Buckeye” and “Browns” fans. Diana says, “I watch all the games”.
One day Michael spoke candidly to me about his spiritual journey; “I was saved at Cedar Street Church of God in New Boston 25 years ago. I’ve gone to church off and on since then, but I recommitted my life about two years ago when all this happened to me. And I’ve been reading the Bible regularly for the past year. I played football in high school, but I quit after my sophomore year. Football is just a game, and almost dying puts things in perspective. My football season (life) is almost over and I need to make decisions about my funeral, but who do you talk too?” I replied, “I can talk with you about it”, so I did.
Michael continued, “I want there to be a visitation time, because I know about 30,000 people and I want to give them all a chance to say good-bye.” He smiled and added, “I don’t want people rushed.” I asked if there was any special music he wanted and he replied, “I’d like ‘I am a Friend of God’, by Phillips, Craig and Dean and ‘In the Living Years’, by Mike and the Mechanics.” I told Michael, “That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone request a song by Mike and the Mechanics to be played at their funeral.” He explained, “I want that song because there’s no blaming others for what you’ve done in your life and people need to tell each other how they feel while they have the chance.” I pulled out my iPhone, pulled up the song on YouTube and we listened to it together. After reading the lyrics below you will better understand Michael’s choice. I did.
“Every generation blames the one before
And all of their frustrations come beating on your door
I know that I’m a prisoner to all my father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him, in the living years.

You say you just don’t see it, he says it’s perfect sense,
You just can’t get agreement in the present tense;
We all talk a different language, talking in defense
So we open a quarrel between the present and the past,
We only sacrifice the future; it’s the bitterness that lasts.
I wasn’t there that morning when my father passed away,
I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit later that same year,
I’m sure I heard his echo in my baby’s newborn tears.
I just wish I would have told him in the living years.
Say it loud; say it clear, you can listen as well as you can hear,
It’s too late when we die, to admit we don’t see eye-to-eye.”
Michael is right, “dying puts things in perspective” doesn’t it? We are all influenced by our past but we don’t have to be held “hostage” by it. When we blame others, when we deny personal responsibility, we escape freedom. We, “sacrifice the future”, and “it’s the bitterness that lasts.”
Differences and offenses don’t always have to be worked out, they can simply be forgiven. From this moment on, no matter what, whether or not, we can choose to respond to God instead of reacting to people. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed (John 8:31-36).”
As I stood up to leave that day Michael smiled and said, “You’re from New Boston so you can come back anytime.” Then he told me, “I love you brother!” He looked me in the eye awaiting a response, and I replied, “I love you too brother.” I decided I’d better tell him “in the living years.” After all, you never know when it might be “too late.”
“As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men.” (Galatians 6:9-10).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at (740) 356-2525 or at hardinl@somc.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.