Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
January 13, 2002
Every time I attend a funeral I am reminded that every person has a limited time to live. None of us is guaranteed three score and ten. We can be here today and gone tomorrow. Millions of people born in the world today will not live to adulthood.
The first funeral of a child which I attended was that of my own son. He died when he was barely three. Since then I have presided at the tearful funerals of a number of other children. Life can be cut short, and sometimes cruelly in an automobile accident. Etched strongly in my memory are the sights and sounds of a funeral in Opelika for a little boy who was buried wearing his baseball cap, with his baseball glove and a baseball by his side in the casket.
Life is not lived on a placid sea. There are many storms along the way to the other side. Some die in the prime of life, like the seven Marines who were killed this past week in a plane crash. Others die slowly, painfully, sometimes struggling with cancer or other diseases for years.
Why raise this gloomy subject? Why call attention to the brevity of life? To remind myself, and perhaps you, dear reader, of the need to live each day to the fullest. None of knows how much time we have left. Whatever it is we wish to do, we had better get busy doing, today! And we need to think seriously about any ways we are using our time frivolously. Some of us may want to change our ways.
I once knew a man who kissed his little dog several times a day but never kissed his wife. He is dead now and I donít think he ever figured out why his wife was always so grumpy. She spoke more kindly to the dog than she did to her husband. I think I know why.
When my wife and I visited this couple in their home, he would greet us with a lukewarm welcome. Then while we sat down to chat, the dog would jump up onto the manís lap. I learned to be careful where I sat; one of the chairs in the den belonged to the dog.
Instead of chatting with us, the man would talk to his dog, while the dog responded by wagging his tail. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the dog was more important to the man than his company.
As we were leaving their home, after this charming visit, the man would say to his little dog, "Tell the preacher and his wife "Bye Byeí Fido." The dog never said a word but he did let me know by the spirited wagging of his tail that he was happy to see us go. Only God knows which of us was the happiest that this visit was over, me or the dog.
"But wait," you say, "doesnít a man have a right to kiss his dog if he wants to?"
Well, of course he does. There is nothing to prevent a man from kissing his dog whenever he chooses. I just happen to believe that he should do it in the privacy of his own home. Why force me to watch? When the man has the opportunity to converse with human beings, why not let the precious little dog go chew on his rubber bone?
Another man I once visited had a little dog not much bigger than a rat, like the rats we used to shoot with a .22 on the farm when we had a rat-killing. That dog never stopped backing from the time I drove up in the yard until the moment I left. Inside the home, the dog sat barking at his masterís feet while we tried to talk.
Perhaps the dogís barking, which did not seem to bother the man, was the manís hedge against prolonged visits by me or anyone. Some of you may be thinking that the dog was simply a good judge of character. Whatever, it was always a delight to pull out of that manís driveway.
A woman I knew had two beautiful birds in a cage. To visit her was to focus on "Tweetie" and "Petty." She claimed the birds could talk and sing but they never chose to perform for me. They were kept in the den where we sat to talk, though the dear woman always more to and about the birds than she did to me.
Birds are nice. I have no objection to people housing and talking to birds. But why not give them their own sunroom so they can cheerfully chirp out there while human beings are carrying on a conversation in the den?
I had a pastor friend who would not visit his parishioners if he knew they had a bird in the house. Feathers freaked him out. Bird lovers gave him a hard time.
Now please understand that this is not a diatribe against dogs and birds. Get you a dozen of each if you wish and enjoy them. That is your business.
The moral of this dialogue is this: since a man does not have long to live in this world, he must decide if people are more important than dogs or birds. Sooner than you think, you will be done kissing. So think carefully about what you are kissing or talking to these days, and make sure your choice is something you can live with after you are dead.