In the fourteenth chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus gives what scholars have labeled “the Farewell Discourse.” It is the way in which Jesus attempts to prepare his disciples for his imminent death. I have often wondered what we would say if we knew that a particular lunch or supper was the last time that we would eat with a loved one.
Many years ago, I was finishing up my dissertation for my Ph.D. at Baylor University in Texas. I would only come home to Danville for a couple of weeks at Christmas. To do this, I would catch a ride with friends who lived near Washington, D.C. They would drop me off in Roanoke and my parents would pick me up there. Then, after Christmas, my parents would take me back to Roanoke for the return trip.
On this particular January day, it was sleeting and icy and I was worried about my parents driving in such conditions. Nevertheless, they insisted on buying me lunch in Roanoke. It was the last time I ate with my father who died of a heart attack that August before I got back to Danville. I wonder now what he would have told me and what I would have told him had I known that it would be our last time together.
I know for sure that I would have said that I loved him. We did not say that nearly enough even if we absolutely did. That was just the way it was then. We argued all the time but it was in good fun. We adored each other. That has comforted me so much in the intervening years. There was no feud or hard feelings we needed to overcome. We were ok.
But I think he would have wanted to tell me something similar to what Jesus told his disciples: Don’t worry so much. And I want you to take a little bit of me with you. Jesus wants us to reflect him and the Father in what we do here on earth. He says that if we have seen him, we have seen the Father. Therefore, if we model Jesus then people will see God. My father would want that, too. He would like it if people thought of him when they saw me in action. I know that it would make me feel good if I knew that I have had an influence for the better on how my children and grandchildren act.
So what would you want to tell your friends and family if it were your last meal together? Perhaps we all should start living as if what we are doing and saying makes a difference. It does make a difference because we never really know when this meal might be the last one we have with someone.