We knew our mom was dying. She’d been diagnosed with cancer 18 months earlier, and that awful disease had done its worse. I’d spent the weekend at Mom and Dad’s, and hadn’t wanted to leave Mom’s side. We’d finally gotten a hospital bed, and set it up in the living room so she could be close to us all.
I sat next to her and held her tiny hand. She told me she wanted to die, she was so tired of being sick. She wanted to go home. I wanted her to stay.
I lived and worked about 60 miles from my parents’ home. So that Sunday evening I packed up and got ready to leave. I stopped at Mom’s bed, and put my cheek next to her’s, and whispered,”Gotta go. See you next weekend.”
She hesitated as though there was something she wanted to say. Then, “Ok. Be careful.”
I stood up fighting tears and said, “Love you” as cheerfully as I could manage. Then I walked away, not knowing if I’d ever see her again in this lifetime.
I drove down the road a short way, pulled into an empty parking lot, and cried and cried. I loved her so much.
She died two days later.
You hear people say, “I hate goodbyes” all the time. I’ve never heard anyone say they love them! Especially if the one you are leaving is someone you love deeply, and someone you know you may never see again.
Like David and Jonathan’s goodbye here in I Samuel. I imagine Jonathan’s heart was heavy as he picked up his bow and arrow and headed to the field that morning. I imagine he fought tears so as not to show the boy with him his sorrow. I can almost feel the burning lump in his throat as he shot that arrow, the signal to David that Saul wanted him dead. And I bet he knew he had to get that boy out of there before the dam broke.
At that moment, Jonathan disregarded any fear of danger at being seen with David. He had to have one last moment with his best friend, no matter the cost. And I imagine that as the two men hugged each other tightly, their tears flowed from their deepest pain.
As I write this, thinking about my last moments with my mom, and Jonathan and David’s goodbye, I am weeping. Twenty-one years have passed since Mom went to live with Jesus. But remembering that goodbye still touches the sorrow as though it was yesterday. I can hardly wait to see her again!
So I’m sitting here thinking about goodbyes and wondering what God would say to me about that today. Then I remembered something David said in verse 3:
…Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.
The same can be said of all of us.
I didn’t get to say goodbye to my sweet nephew that Sunday afternoon he lost control of his truck and slammed into a tree. He was gone in an instant, without saying goodbye even to his parents and sister. Without giving them the opportunity to say goodbye to him, either.
Now I’m certainly not advocating tearful goodbyes every time someone runs to the corner store for milk. But maybe God is prompting us to consider if there is someone in our lives with whom we have things yet unsaid. Anger or jealousy we need to confess, forgiveness we need to seek, Jesus we need to share.
Maybe God is bringing to mind someone you’ve stopped talking to for reasons you don’t even remember, or reasons so trivial in the light of eternity.
The truth is we are all one step away from death. Is there someone on your heart? Ask God what He wants you to do about that. Then do it.
You never get a second chance at a last goodbye.