Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Make Hay While the Sun Shines" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (03/06/08)
TITLE: Before It's Too Late
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Roseanne gingerly sips aromatic orange tea from a flowery antique teacup as I ask my question. “I forget … how old will you be on your birthday?”
With her carefully manicured rose-red fingernails poised in mid-air, she murmurs from matching lips pursed in a peaceful smile. “Seventy-nine. But honey, I’m squeezing as much as I can get into the seventy-eighth year, first.” She pauses with a pointer finger poised on her chin. “And mark my words, I hope to do the same next year.”
“How do you do it Roseanne … with your heart condition and all?” As her neighbor, I’ve dubbed her a mentor figure, of sorts, and need to know more. I want to tap the depths of this wise woman’s soul; to become a sponge and soak up the sweet streams of living water flowing there.
She sits back in her chair while her fingertips stroke the delicate handle of her teacup - waits for a dramatic pause of fifteen seconds - and then speaks. “I have many things to do before I go Home. I don’t know when the Lord will come for me, but it could be any day.”
“I know, I know … that’s what worries me!”
“Now honey, I have a choice. I can sit around and wait to die, which isn’t living at all, or else I can LIVE.”
“But does living - by your definition - include mowing the grass, making meals for shut-ins, and cleaning neighboring houses? Must you do all those physically taxing things?”
Roseanne's gentle, signature smile spreads across her face as her eyes dance with something akin to mischief. “Honey, I don’t have to do them … I want to do them! All those things are acts of worship – you know? I’m God’s barber when I mow, God’s chef when I cook, God’s servant when I clean. I love working for God.”
She seems convincing. “But what about your health? Shouldn’t you be taking it easy? What does your doctor say? I mean you ARE almost seventy-nine, and personally, I think you deserve a break.”
Another fifteen seconds pass. “Have you ever heard of ‘carpe diem’? Seize the day?”
“Yes, of course.”
Her age-spotted hand reaches for the white porcelain coffee pot and refills both our cups.
“I believe ‘seizing’ translates into ‘doing’ – accomplishing, serving, loving, sacrificing. We all will die – but shouldn’t we live as if tomorrow might never come?”
“I understand, but still … I worry. I just want you to be around for a long while yet.” I try to smile, but end up blushing instead.
“And who is in charge of my life … and yours … my dear girl?” Her eyebrow twists with a quizzical jump as if to highlight my sheepishness.
“God … of course.”
“The very God who gives us life in the first place also issues daily assignments.” With an optimistic wave of her free hand she adds, “I simply intend to complete all my assignments for as long as I possibly can.”
I think about my own life – how I run in circles in a state of overwhelm and end up spending all my energy putting out fires – and look deep into her hazel eyes as an encouragement for her to continue.
“Each new day holds an opportunity, “ she continues, “one that won’t ever repeat itself – not in exactly the same way.” She fidgets with her napkin, turning the corners in toward the center to make a quilt block pattern. “I don’t want to miss even a single one of those opportunities.”
Captivated by her zeal, I ask, “What was your unique opportunity today, Roseanne?”
Without even the slightest hesitation, she reaches across the table and clasps my hand in hers. “Having tea with you, my dearest, sweet neighbor and friend.”
I want that moment to last forever, and it seems to almost do just that for another very long fifteen seconds or so. Then Roseanne’s warm hand retreats to grasp her teacup handle once more.
“Tomorrow will offer another one,” she muses, while staring at the steam rising in curls above her dainty cup. She pats the defibrillator/pacemaker implanted in her upper left chest. “And I will be watching for it – before it’s too late.”
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