I have always wondered why most of us leave until one dies to say nice things about them? It amazes me how people may struggle to tell some one even a simple word like “thank you” but once same one is deceased they find it easy to lavish every sweet word in their books, mobilize all the funds in the world for a majestic funeral and for those extravagant parties that follows.
Obviously there are many reasons for this. But I think one of the core reasons is that death – especially abrupt traumatic death – does put life into perspective. Grief is a powerful force that opens the treasures of our hearts that otherwise would be slammed tight. People wake up to the things that really matter about the life of the deceased once they have been traumatically shaken by their loss.
I learned this just recently when my dear brother Focus, 48, died of heart attack. Prior to his tragic death our relationship could be described as okay-ish. But his abrupt passing unlocked the treasure of love towards him like never before. On hearing of his passing my heart split open and precious memories of him came gushing out. I started reflecting how Focus enjoyed life his own way; free to speak his mind and laugh himself out without shame. I remembered how we shared breathtaking moments as kids; I recalled how we cried and laughed together. I tearfully thought how his widow would cope without her husband of more than eighteen years. “How tragic will it be for his two wonderful children to grow up without a father!?” I lamented.
But my greatest and long lasting memory of him is that of happiness, warmth, kindness and love. Without even knowing I was going through one of the toughest times in the UK – Focus would pick up his phone and call me all the way from Africa. He often did that when he hardly had any money to buy dinner for his kids.
During our telephone conversations (that sometimes lasted just a couple of seconds) Focus always made sure I understood the purpose of his call. He would call not to ask for favours but to find out how was I doing and to say, “I love you brother” before running out of call credits. Sometimes I called him back but oftentimes, regrettably, I didn’t. I didn’t for two major reasons.
Firstly, I never understood the emotional impact of calling some one just for the purpose of saying “I love you”. At the time words of love, appreciation and encouragement meant a little to me. Secondly I was naïve enough to think I will always have time to call him back. “After all we are still young”, was my excuse.
What touched me more was the fact that I was not the only beneficiary of Focus’ infectious love. Social media was awash with moving tributes from family and friends who were equally touched by his simple but equally transformative acts of love. Without a doubt my life, for one, has been positively affected by Focus’ life even if he himself doesn’t know it.
Worse still, my personal circumstances didn’t allow me to travel all the way to Africa for my brother’s funeral. Since I couldn’t say my final good byes in person I tried to let “him” know how he meant to me through a written poem. At best the sweet words touched those that could hear them, but the tribute were never going to be good enough because Focus himself could not get me – he was gone without knowing how he touched his little brother’s life. Reflecting back I wish I had called him more often to find out how he was doing and tell him how I loved him more.
Too often we leave until people have left us to do our best for them. All that is good except that the tributes mean virtually nothing to the deceased. Love unrealised is love denied. People that touch our lives in a special way need to know how we think of them. They deserve to know they are loved and that we so much appreciate them. In so doing we also enrich their lives and hopefully provoke more good work amongst us.
This is what Mary, the sinful woman referred to in Matt. 26:6-13, did to Jesus. After she was set free from the chains of adultery she let Jesus know what he meant to her. As Jesus was eating dinner Marry came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume.
Of course her act raised a few eyebrows but she didn’t care as Jesus quickly jumped to her defence and said, “Let the woman alone. She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives, but not me. When she poured this perfume on my body, what she really did was anoint me for burial. You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.”
What Jesus meant, in essence, is that when we appreciate people we inherit their good legacy. No one was promised to inherit Jesus’ gospel legacy except this grateful, thoughtful woman. But to be incorporated in Jesus’ will she had to pay tribute before he dies. Christ reminded us that the opportunity to serve the poor would always be there but the opportunities to appreciate people are extremely limited.
The reason for this is that as long as humans exist people in need will always be present, but the people that mean so much to us – those that contribute a lot to our lives not only that they are few and far between but they don’t stick around for long. And even if they live longer you yourself may not live long enough to appreciate them.
If you feel someone deserves a word of appreciation tell them now, don’t wait until its too late.
Love doesn’t need to be expensive. With whatever means we can afford and in whatever situation we are in we can still enrich other people’s lives by making them feel loved, valuable, and important. A simple word, a harmless gesture, a short phone call, text, tweet, whatsup, inbox, or just a mere facebook “like” could prove to be all it takes to transform one’s life. Mary blessed Jesus with the best she could afford, not knowing she was leaving lasting divine impression on the Kingdom of God. Focus just did what he could; only God knows how far his act of love is set to go.
As Saint Paul said, we must not get tired of doing what is good to each other, for at the right time we will reap a harvest—if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9