An Authentic Life Without Regret
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
Jesus said to his disciples, "In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see`the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake-- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake." - Mark 13:24-37
When I was a seminarian, I was required to be an intern chaplain in a hospital. One of the things I had to deal with is end of life, or more bluntly, death. Ours is a culture that either avoids talking about death and dying, or is uncomfortable with it. I was (and still am) uncomfortable talking about the “d’ word. But I had to face it, even my own mortality, and there was no escaping it as I was especially assigned to a unit with people whose illness was terminal. In one of our classes, I remember our supervisor giving us an assignment- questions to reflect on: “What would you like to be written on your tombstone?” “How would you like to be remembered by others?” “If you were to write your eulogy, what will it say?” What regrets do you have or not have thus far in your life?” How would you live your life so that you would have less regret?” Having been a chaplain in a setting where death lurks around was one of the most fruitful learning experiences of my life. For one, it made me more intentional about living my life in a way I feel God calls me to live it. I try to live my life so that I won’t have a lot of heavy regrets at the end of it. I try to live life in a way that would make a good difference in other’s people’s lives. I want to leave the world a better place because I existed. I think it would be unfortunate to die feeling that I didn’t do anything to make the world a good place.
The Gospel today speaks of the coming of Jesus at the end of our time. As we pray the Nicene Creed, we say that the Lord will come again in glory iudicare vivos et mortuos. He will come “to judge the living and the dead.” We will be judged as to how we have lived our lives in accordance with the laws of justice and love. Therefore, we must be vigilant, meaning we must not be sleeping to life but being awake by a conscious intention to live our lives day in and day out with a holy and just purpose. We can’t postpone living our holy calling as God’s children for tomorrow (the future) because we just don’t know the day nor the hour when the Lord will come to judge us- living or dead. We might say to ourselves: “I have plenty of time, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Or “I’ll do it the day after tomorrow.” Regret comes when suddenly we realized that we have not been living our lives the way of God, the way we want to live it and it’s too late.
I remember a seventy-year-old man who I cared for; Ray was his name. When he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he told me that he had one regret he would like to undo. He said that forty years ago he had an argument with a group of very close friends over some trivial thing not worth fighting. But he decided to abandon friendship with them. He said he was stupid enough to hold to his grudge for a long time. And then when the grudge was gone, he was foolish enough to hold on to his pride. But as he lay dying at Calvary Hospital, he wished he could find them and reconcile with them. But he had given up since he didn’t know where they were. With his permission, I searched for his friends, and found one in Florida, retired. That friend said they were wondering all these forty years about Ray. They had been looking for him but could not find him. I told him that he was at his end of life. That friend arranged for a reunion of all the friends and flew to NYC to be with Ray at his last days. While this ended with some good closure, I also thought of times lost- times which all of them could have spent with a lot of loving and fun!
Where are you now in your life with the Lord? Do you believe that you are leading the holy and loving life God calls you to live out in the circumstances of your daily life? Are you prepared to meet the Lord anytime with a good enough (if not pure) conscience, saying “Lord, I may not be perfect but I’ve given it at my all, my best, to love you as you want me to love you, and the people who came into my life?”
Do you have any regrets that you would like to undo and still can undo? Some regrets cannot be undone, regrettably. But some could be. What would you do to undo some regrets? What prevents you from doing that? Do you have a relative or friend you want to reconcile with? What steps might you do take to do that? Life is too short to have many regrets.
© 2015 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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