John is an intelligent man.
When my Dad died exactly one year ago today, not only did I lose my father…
…but John also lost his best friend.
After teaching history together for over thirty years, John and my Dad shared lunch every week for an additional twenty years during their retirement. Theirs was a special relationship between two special men that spanned more than 50 years. By a twist of fate, my Sister and I were there when they shared their last meal together.
It was a special moment, even more so than we knew at the time.
I suspect the death of his friend made him think, as these things often do…
- …about his mortality.
- …about his limited days remaining to impact this world.
- …about his vitality, lost.
It’s important to know that John is a thinking man. On rare occasions, I am fortunate to have him share some of those thoughts with me. He recently shared some insightful thoughts that caused me to stop.
As I thought about the words John had shared, I knew I had to write this post. I also knew I had to publish these words on February 22nd, the one-year anniversary of my Dad’s death.
I’ve been more reflective than usual these past few weeks. Perhaps it’s due to the approaching anniversary of my Dad’s passing. Perhaps it’s due to the words John shared. Perhaps it’s just two best friends colluding to share a message that needs to be heard. Regardless, I’ve been philosophical, and this post reflects that thinking. If you prefer the more tactical articles about retirement, come on back next time. Today, we’re taking a different approach out of respect for my Dad and his best friend. Today, we’re going deep, and I make no apologies.
These words are for those who like to be challenged to think.
These are words triggered by the thoughts of a man as he confronts his mortality.
Thoughts about Vitality, Lost.
From my Dad’s best friend.What does an aging man think about as he loses his vitality? Today, a rare insight into an intelligent mind. Thoughts on the things that matter. Click To Tweet
Vitality is one of those things easily taken for granted until it’s gone. Once gone, it’s one of the things you most desire. More than money. More than material things. Losing your vitality is one of those milestones that makes you reevaluate your priorities.
Never take vitality for granted, it’s a gift that can be taken away in a moment.
I do everything I can to maintain my vitality, as do many of you. We exercise, we try to eat right, and we try to get the right amount of sleep. I’m proud to say as I approach my 60th birthday that I’m in the best shape of my life.
But, try as we might, the sad reality is a day will come when we’ll all lose our vitality.
On that day, our priorities will become crystal clear.
The Words of a Thinking Man
The fleeting nature of vitality is a good reminder for all of us, and I thank John for sharing his thoughts. His words are too valuable to keep “hidden” in a long stream of comments, so I’ve decided to highlight them today, along with some thoughts of my own which were triggered by John’s words.
It all started when John wrote the following comment on my recent post, 7 Secrets To A Great Retirement:
Fine post, Fritz. May I add two comments?
1) An eighth principle (actually it should be number 1) is, “Work hard on your spiritual life.”
2) You are four years into retirement, and still are six or so years younger than when most of us retire. When I was your age I had your energy, but no matter how well one follows the seven (or eight) principles of a good retirement there comes deterioration of health and loss of various aspects of vitality. Sooner or later there is you and God; and even before then there are times when you will wonder “what good am I” compared with more vital days. The only answer is that, as the novelist Thornton Wilder titled his wonderful “depression” book in the 1930s, “Heaven’s My Destination.”
I read John’s comment four times before I wrote the following response:
John, what an amazing and inspirational comment from my Dad’s best friend. Of course, focusing on our spiritual life is the most important “secret” during our time on earth and I appreciate you so eloquently reminding us all of its importance.
Your comment on “Lost Vitality” has triggered a lot of thoughts in my ever-active mind, in fact, I just saved a draft article with that title. It’s an important reminder for all of us to remember while we still have “vigor,” and our days for making a real impact in this world are unavoidably numbered.
My dad was a wise man, and chose his friends carefully. Your mutual friendship was an inspiration to me throughout my life and a shining example of my Dad’s wisdom. Thank you for your friendship with my Dad, and thank you for your friendship with me. I’ve always respected you, and now my readers get a small glimpse into the man who has earned that respect.
As I said, John is an intelligent man.
One mark of intelligence, in my opinion, is when a man’s words linger in your mind long after they’re written. John’s words have occupied my mind for weeks. Intelligent words cause you to stop.
Below, I’ll share the thoughts I’ve had in the weeks since I first read John’s comments.
“Work Hard On Your Spiritual Life”
1) An eight principle (actually is should be number 1) is “Work hard on your spiritual life.”
I’m convinced that there are certain realities that are hard for our human minds to grasp. Things that we will always struggle to comprehend. Things that are beyond our understanding and can only be believed through faith.
…The Infinity of Space: It’s hard enough to grasp the size of our solar system, let alone our Milky Way galaxy. Beyond comprehension, however, is the fact that ours is only one of an infinite number of galaxies, spanning an infinite amount of space. A space without end. Our human minds demand an end to things and struggle with the concept of a universe without boundaries. And yet, what is the alternative? A huge plexiglass bubble that somehow holds the boundaries of the whole thing together? That’s harder to grasp than the concept of infinity itself.
…The Eternity of Time: Imagine a rope that wraps endlessly around the globe. You hold the end of the rope in your hand and notice a small piece of red tape on the very end of the rope. That tape represents our time on this earth as viewed from the perspective of eternity.
Between that tape and the eternity of that rope is a small gateway through which we all must pass. The gateway of death is an unavoidable reality for all of us. Like the loss of vitality, our priorities will become crystal clear when we pass through that gateway. Unfortunately, it will be too late to change that which has been done. The priorities we’ve chosen during our life will have eternal consequences.
“Work Hard On Your Spiritual Life,” indeed.
As hard as it is to grasp, our time spent in eternity far outweighs our time on earth (perhaps the largest understatement I’ve ever written). Time without end. Beyond our ability to understand, but something I believe to be true. All of the world’s major religions address beliefs about the afterlife. As a Christian, I have my own views, and I strongly encourage you to develop views of your own.
As important as achieving a successful retirement is, it pales in comparison.
Looking through the lens of eternity has a way of causing you to re-evaluate your priorities. John is viewing things from the proper perspective, and his advice is something we should all take to heart.
John is an intelligent man.
You Will Wonder “What Good Am I” Compared With More Vital Days
Let’s revisit the context of John’s comment which featured the quote shown above:
When I was your age I had your energy, but no matter how well one follows the seven (or eight) principles of a good retirement there comes deterioration of health and loss of various aspects of vitality. Sooner or later there is you and God; and even before then there are times when you will wonder “what good am I” compared with more vital days.
Ponder that last sentence for a moment.
“Sooner or later there is you and God; and even before then there are times when you will wonder “what good am I” compared with more vital days.”
It’s a powerful sentence and the one that has stuck with me more than any other from John’s comment.
Honest, raw, and powerful.
It’s a rare insight into the innermost thoughts of an aging man. A man who is a realist, and knows his days of making a real impact on this earth are waning. A man who knows he’ll soon meet his Maker. It is, likely, a thought many of us will have when we approach those years of…
It is the sentence that led to the title of today’s post.
I applaud John for his transparency and courage. John, rest assured it is through writing like this that you ARE still making an impact in this world…
- …On this writer.
- …On this audience.
Of course, you are correct. There will come a time when our days of making an impact on this world will be over. There will come a time when there is only “you and God.”
Our days are far more limited than we choose to believe.
Make an impact while you still can, and choose your priorities carefully.
“Heaven’s My Destination
“The only answer is that, as the novelist Thornton Wilder titled his wonderful “depression” book in the 1930s, “Heaven’s My Destination.”
Citing a book title as his closing statement is an example of John’s brilliance. I’ve never read Thronton Wilder’s book, but I just clicked over to Amazon and ordered it as I wrote these words. I’ll think of John and his comment every time I pick that book up in the future.
Clearly, however, John wasn’t making a book recommendation. Rather, he was making a statement.
John has taken the time to think about what really matters. He’s viewed his life as that small piece of red tape and knows the reality of the eternal rope before him. He knows his priorities, and he’s taken the steps required in his spiritual life to prepare for the future.
His best friend did the same.
In my Dad’s final days, my sister and I had a conversation with him that I’ll remember forever. It’s too personal to share here, but I rest assured in knowing my Dad is in heaven.
He’ll be waiting for you when you arrive, John.
I suspect you’ll share more meals around a table in the days to come. In fact, I look forward to joining you there myself. I hope you don’t mind if I extend an invitation to all of my readers to join us.
Heaven’s my destination. Is it yours?
It’s a decision that only you can make.
Make it wisely.
Whether we care to admit it or not, there will come a day when we’ll all lose our vitality.
There will come a day when every one of us will die.
As you focus on the things that matter during your limited time on earth, never lose sight of the importance of the spiritual priorities in your life. It’s not morbid, it’s reality. It deserves some attention as you seek to live your best possible life today, and tomorrow.
A year after his death, I have confidence in knowing it was a priority in my Dad’s life. And, thanks to his words, you now know it’s a priority for John. I applaud his courage in sharing his thoughts.
I appreciate your understanding of my decision to share mine.
Hopefully, these words will cause you to stop.
Your Turn: Thanks in advance for your patience as I tread on the “thin ice” of religion in today’s post. It’s a risky move in today’s divisive culture, but a move I felt led to make on the anniversary of my Dad’s passing. So, I’ll ask the same of you. Do you give priority to the Spiritual aspects of life? Let’s chat in the comments…