One of the most interesting things about my job as an ICU nurse, is the human drama that is woven into every day. It may not always be the stuff of TV shows, but it is the stuff of reality. This week the patient next door to my patient, was a relatively young man who had suffered a massive brain injury in a startling accident. One moment he had been full of vitality and strength, his body surging with adrenaline and the enjoyment of his sport. The next moment, he was lying unconscious in the snow, while memory, and intelligence, and enjoyment, and opportunity, and every ability he had developed, slipped quietly away.
He wasn’t my patient, but I couldn’t help but think about him, as doctors gathered in solemn clusters outside his room, and nurses exchanged significant looks as they glanced at the monitors that condensed the dying process into sets of numbers. Most tragic of all, his family and friends, their faces drawn with weeping, their smiles wiped away, filed in and out, in and out, of his room. The women were shaken and frail looking, the men troubled and awkward.
I thought a lot about death this week. I thought a lot about life, too. Life, which, at least in a physical sense, never extends past today. I don’t have life for tomorrow. Life tomorrow, if I reach it, will only be life today. I cannot live in tomorrow, and I will never die in tomorrow. On whatever day I die, my death will be today.
Today is the day to do the things that I would want to do tomorrow. We see them in the ICU, family members who cling to their dying loved one, desperately watching for a moment of consciousness, a chance to say the things that should have been said long before. Today is the day to be a blessing, to give a hug before we aren’t able to, or before there are tubes and wires in the way. To say every goodbye the way we want to say our final goodbye. To do our best to ensure that we won’t one day be left saying, “If only I had one more chance to….” Today is the day to take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities.
Today is the day to live life to the fullest. And here I propound my argument that the realization that there may be no tomorrow, while it is sobering, also fills today with multiplied delights. God has given us so many legitimate pleasures to enjoy, why should we not make His heart glad by rejoicing in His gifts? How many thrills and delights sprout up beside my daily path, when I enjoy each experience as though it is my last chance. There can be such pure pleasure in everything I do, from the time I wake up in a warm bed, to the time that I dive into it again at night.
I love how my job reminds me to take nothing for granted. How splendid it is to be able to move and talk and breathe and sing (and whistle =), and work, and play, and see, and hear, and eat, and interact with people who love me, to explore life and enjoy new experiences. How wonderful to not be in a coma, to not even be in pain! I suppose some people will smile when they read this, will think that perhaps a Pollyanna perspective isn’t made for real life. But real life happens at the intersection of life and death; it is there that priorities and true worth become evident.
I enjoy the little pleasures of life now more than ever before. Even when I need to do a very distasteful job, I am reminded that if one day I am bound to a wheelchair, one of the hardest things will be that I won’t be able to serve my loved ones as I used to. I’ll miss being able to clean the bathroom or do the laundry or wash the dishes. Today is the day to enjoy the delights that may be gone tomorrow.
But really, I can only fully enjoy today because the question of my tomorrow is settled. Today has great significance. It could be my last. It will be the last for millions of people. We shrink from this line of thought, and call it morbid, but really, is it so morbid? Solemn, yes, but melancholy and distressing? Maybe it depends. It depends on what the future holds when there is no today left. For me, and for every person who has put their trust in the Lord Jesus to be forgiven of their sins, life is today, but the full enjoyment of eternal life is after today. I’m not eager to die, but I sure am eager to enter into the explosion of life that I’ll be enjoying with God in heaven, when this physical body dies. There’s just no comparison!
But how different it is for the people who have never believed that the Lord Jesus paid for their sins by His death on the cross. I remember how before I put my trust in Him, I was conscious that if I was to die, I would find myself in hell, the place of torment that God prepared for the devil and his angels, the place to which men and women choose to go when they reject the salvation that God provided through the Lord Jesus.
God gives great significance to today. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “Now is the day of salvation.” Today is the day to agree with God that we are sinners, and any good things we do can’t make up for the bad things we’ve already done. Today is the day to believe that the Lord Jesus paid for our sins by dying on the cross. Today is the day to receive “the gift of God…eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Today is the day to decide about tomorrow.