The guys in the picture seem quite confident of where this finish line is located. If it’s a marathon race, they’ve trained their bodies to run for 26 miles to where the race will end.
Still, injuries can cause the race to end sooner than expected. Sometimes careers end sooner than expected.
Who can forget watching replays of Bo Jackson getting tackled on a routine play and essentially ending his (2) sports careers with a hip injury? Or as Joe Theismann breaks his leg during a Monday Night Football game? Both of them must have been quite surprised when the finish line of their careers made a sudden, unexpected move.
If it’s true in sports, it certainly is true for a person’s life span. My Dad, my Mother-in-law, and step Mother-in-law each died suddenly, without warning and sooner than expected. My Mom and my Father-in-law both lived long lives and the end came much more slowly.
Obviously, none of us knows when our “finish line” may come along. But, is there a point at which we can say, “I need to start thinking about finishing life well”?
I know, I know. What could be more arbitrary than that question? Of course, we’ll each have to answer it for ourselves. But after thinking about it for a while, I’ve come to a personal conclusion. Are you ready for it? Here it is. I believe the final leg of a life lived well begins when the last child moves out on their own and parents are left with what’s been called “The empty nest”.
Considering today’s relatively long life expectancies, we’re talking about a few decades for many of us. But finishing well requires a lot more than staying alive for a long time. The quality of life during those years affects not only us. Our quality of life has a profound effect on our families and friends, too.
Those marathon runners keep up with the time and distance along the way. They must stay well-hydrated and get some nourishment to keep up the pace. They follow a precise plan for getting water, electrolytes, and energy bars at certain points during the run. For marathon runners, there are lines to be crossed ahead of the finish line.
There are some parallels in running the long, final leg of life, too. There are ways to keep our minds and bodies fueled so we can “run the race and finish the course”. Skipping a refueling checkpoint along the way can be disastrous for marathon runners. We run the same risks by skipping basic checkpoints as we live each day.
Check-point # 1: Diet and exercise.
This is number one because it’s key to accomplishing all the other actions on the list.
Anyone can easily get good guidance from Google on which foods are most likely to help us stay healthy. It’s okay, even healthy, to stray from strictness once in a while. But, like it or not, over time, the foods we eat today eventually determine our quality of life down the road.
Plus, our bodies are made to move. Simply walking for 30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week improves circulation, immunity, and brain health. The benefits go on and on. Eventually, our actions will show up in our quality of life down the road.
Find a routine that works for you so you can stick with it over the long haul. For example, I love walking but hate running. I would not last long at all if I forced myself to run instead of walk at a brisk pace.
Check-point # 2: Minimize medication.
The pharmaceutical industry has done a phenomenal job of convincing people that there is a pill for every imaginable ailment.
They say, “Eat whatever you want and when your cholesterol or blood pressure get too high, there’s a pill for that.” “Don’t worry about your immune system, we have a vaccine and some super vitamin pills for that.” “Gaining too much weight? Don’t worry, we’ve got pills for that, too.” (Yeah, sure!) Last night I was astounded by a TV commercial during the evening news promoting a new injection that will eliminate your double chin!
Is there a time and place for medication? Of course, there is! Used correctly when needed medications absolutely have the ability to extend and improve our quality of life.
But, let’s never forget that virtually all medications have toxic potential. Just listen to the precautions for each medication on those TV commercials. And the more drugs we mingle together the higher the risks climb.
Check-point # 3: Claim responsibility.
The human body is amazing. When cared for properly, it can withstand attacks from disease and injury far better than we can comprehend.
But, it’s a lot easier to eat whatever we want to eat, skip exercise, and take pills to correct the results.
Here’s a news flash in case you haven’t heard already. Insurance premiums are skyrocketing and coverage is plummeting. No change in that trend is in sight.
The wise choice is to take control and be responsible for your own health for as long as you possibly can be. In a word, stop looking for the “easy way out” and become independently healthy!
Check-point 4: Focus on others.
I once had an elderly friend who liked to say, “Once a man, twice a kid”? As we age, it appears that we are likely to revert to the childish notion of “it’s all about me”. Over time, that attitude leads to fear. Fear that our needs won’t be met. Fear that our loved ones no longer care. Fear that we’ll be mistreated somehow.
I’m not sure how to overcome this tendency and keep an outward focus as time takes its toll and we’re forced to be dependent on outside help. I am convinced it won’t come naturally for most of us.
But, I have to believe we can do it by being aware of the tendency, practicing ahead of time, and planning to apply our knowledge when the time comes.
The rewards of an outward focus could be great. We could be seen as a person who’s, demonstrating a trait only God can produce, positively influencing people, and enjoying genuine contentment to the end.
Check-point # 5: Keep an attitude of gratitude.
There is a song based on scripture that I think says far more about gratitude than anything I might write.
You can enjoy it on YouTube here.
I pray that this music will prevail in my mind all of my days.
Check-point # 6: Maintain good relationships.
Strong family relationships, like our physical bodies, have incredible power to overcome adversity. They thrive on 3 ingredients: unconditional love, respect, and open communication. We can offer these ingredients regardless of the condition of our physical bodies.
Friendship has the ability to multiply the good things in life and divide the tough things. Even when friends pass on ahead of us, the fond memories of good times spent together live on as long as we live.
Getting relationships right and as they should be, depends on the depth of the ultimate relationship. The ultimate relationship is the one with Jesus Christ. He’s the only One capable to never leave us and never forsake us. And, He’s the One who will escort each one of His followers to our Heavenly home when that time comes.
Check-point # 7: Final graduation.
- We’d all like to live a long, full life, then lay down to sleep one night and die before morning. A few of us will be blessed with that privilege.
- But, let’s focus on the more common scenario where we sort of arrive at the commencement exercises and realize we’ll soon walk across the stage and receive our “diploma”.
- No matter how we slice it, some of the most difficult challenges of our lives happen during the last days. Or weeks. Or months.
- We’ll require help from family, friends, and professionals we’d prefer not to need. Still, we won’t have control over much at that point.
- The good new is, I’m convinced we’ll get one last, powerful chance to influence those we love in those final days.
- I’m also convinced we’re in the process of determining the value of our influence in the final days long before they arrive.
The third and final post in this series will look at some practical ways we can help ourselves now to be prepared to finish well during our last days.
Please share your thoughts today and look for the next post soon.