Whales and Living

If you’ve never viewed “The Whales of August,” consider yourself fortunate. I recorded it from the Turner Classic Movie channel because it starred Bette Davis and Lillian Gish, and my wife and I settled in on Saturday afternoon to watch what we assumed to be a classic. The film is from 1986 when Gish was age 91 and Davis 79. The aged stars play elderly sisters in Maine coming to grips with each other in the shadow of impending death. Their portrayal reeked of despair, leaving my wife and I depressed and asking each other and ourselves if our own end could possibly resemble theirs–a horrifying thought. I assured my wife that our final days will be far different because we are surrounded by a loving and supportive family, and because of the hope we have that this life matters now, not merely as a meaningless prelude to a far grander eternity. 
The secret seems to be embracing every moment we’re given as though it may never repeat, finding grace at every turn. Buechner’s Godric declares, “He also said we should carve in the year and place where I was born, but I said no. As a man dies many times before he’s dead, so does he wend from birth to birth until, by grace, he comes alive at last.” The trick is to come alive long before we go. I saw a t-shirt recently while on vacation in Savanna that had imprinted in front a quote from Martin Kuther King, Jr.: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Although I certainly don’t disagree, it is equally true that no one is prepared to die who isn’t fully alive. According to Jesus, this is the crux of the matter: “I have come that they may have life, and live it to the full” (John 10:10).

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