By Myrtle Virginia Thompson
It should come as no surprise that as we age we begin to look back on our lives, the good, the bad, the “shoulda and the coulda,” even some of the “unfinished business.”
We know our “treasured possessions” will one day be disposed of by someone else. We can’t take them with us: not the bank account, the savings, the silver, gold and precious jewels, not any of the nicest of home furnishings. They will all be left for someone else.
Ancient kings were buried in pyramids and graves along with what their peers thought they would need in the next life. Their bodies turned to dust, but their treasures were never used. They are still being uncovered by archaeologists, bought and sold by the finders or kept as artifacts in a museum.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells a story about a man who had died, not realizing he had left behind some “unfinished business.” It was not earthly treasures that were haunting him — it was memories. He had lived a very self-centered, narcissistic lifestyle. Now in a place of torment, he knew there was a “great gulf fixed,” no possibility of a crossover or return. He wanted Jesus to go tell his brothers so they would not experience what was happening to him. Jesus had to ignore his plea. He had waited too late. He said they had the witness of Moses and the prophets. If they would not listen to them, they could not be persuaded even if someone rose from the dead.
I was attracted to that story because I have been searching out my own unfinished business, which is different. Unlike the rich man, I have no fears and nothing much of value. Over 60 years ago, I began writing as a therapeutic measure, a way to think through problems, make decisions and gain ideas, just talking to myself. I wrote notes on bits and pieces of paper, kept a collection from other writers, cartoons as an expression of life. I turned down pages in my books and underlined whole paragraphs. I got a computer and the files grew fat with more memories. I need to toss them, but that is not easy. It is Iike giving up a favorite chair when the tapestry becomes worn.
I planned to go through this bevy of notebooks “some day when I get old.” I wanted to transform the thoughts into something of inspiration for a future generation. That day has never come. The electronic age has taken over. Phone conversations and social media is often the extent the “future generation” understands. I should clear out my files but I am also still so busy with “living” I don’t find time to get around to my “unfinished business.” Besides, I have no assurance any of my personal experiences matter to anyone else.
That may be one of the lessons Jesus was teaching in this story. He wanted to remind us how we are too self-consumed. He said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupts them and thieves break through and steal…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
The world has changed. I have accepted the fact that my unfinished business can stagnate. My 91st birthday is next week. I still have a life and a ministry working with the “not so young” who may be looking back, remembering. We can relive those thoughts together, seek God’s forgiveness and let our lives finish with the joy of the Lord, not like the rich man’s. For that, I am thankful.
Myrtle Virginia Thompson is a Suffolk resident and former missionary. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.