By: Dennis Bates
As I get older, more and more of my thoughts turn to my past. I wonder what I could have done differently, what I could have better, and how I could have avoided some of the stupid things I did. It’s rather pointless, really, to worry about these things. They’re gone. But I suppose to some degree worrying about what I could have and should have done is inevitable, or at least it seems to be.
There is a modern day proverb that goes something like this: When you are about to die and you have only a few breaths left, if you were granted one last wish, your wish would not be, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” In my case it might be just the opposite.
The opening scene from the movie “Citizen Kane” features the last word of a wealthy man as he lay dying. The word is “Rosebud.” The entire movie involves a news reporter’s search for the meaning of that word. We watch as the movie flashes back to the man’s childhood and chronicles his acquisition of incredible wealth and power. None of it makes him happy.”
In the movie the reporter never finds out what “Rosebud” was, but in the very last scene, we the viewers do. It turns out that Rosebud was the name of a sled he had as a child. We saw the joy he had riding it at the beginning of the movie, and it was the last and maybe only time he was happy in the entire film. He had everything, acquired a massive collection of riches from everywhere in the world, and built an empire, but after he died what couldn’t be sold was pitched into a massive furnace in the basement of his mansion, and the last item thrown into the fire was that sled named Rosebud.
It’s a haunting movie in a lot of ways because it shows us the time we waste on things that ultimately are unimportant.
One of my grandmothers died from breast cancer, the other from some sort of dementia. Both women were influential in my life and both had modest needs and desires. Neither of them cared a bit about having the latest gadget for their kitchen or driving a new car. Neither had closets full of fancy clothes and I doubt that either had detailed knowledge of their investment portfolios. In fact, I doubt that either had an investment portfolio; yet I doubt that there are few people who enjoyed life more than either of them.
If laughter makes you rich, one of my grandmother’s was a multimillionaire and the other one was very well off. In short, they both had their priorities in life straight. They knew what was important and they didn’t worry about other things. Whether they could quote it or not, both women knew implicitly what Jesus said in Matthew 6: 31-33:
Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For…your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Neither of my grandmothers died with the regret of Rosebud on their lips or in their hearts because they knew what made life important and they sought that kingdom first and always. I would do well to remember that as I reflect, so that no matter what I did or did not do in my life, my last word can be “Jesus.” And I’ll be smiling.