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Persistent Living

Three days ago, a persistent ice fisherman, who spent many days on our lake this winter, was out fishing about 200 yards from shore. Often I would observe him already out there on the ice by 7:00 each morning. He must have really loved it, because he did it so often and he kept it up even when the edges of the lake ice were already melting. He was persisting. I wonder if the persistent fisherman knew what a chance he was taking by going out on the ice when the edge was already showing a couple feet of open water.

This morning, at 7:00, I saw four ducks swim by our dock in the open water left where the ice had already retreated about 30 feet from shore. I was struck by the persistence of life, the eagerness of living things to move on to new opportunities. Where were those ducks yesterday? Hiding in the rushes, waiting for the water to open up? Somewhere they were doing their thing and living persistently.

I knew a man whose life opportunities had diminished because a disabling neurological disease was slowly taking away his abilities. But at the same time, he persisted in being a part of the Bible study group in the nursing care home where he lived. And he pursued heartfelt discussions with other residents about their views on public matters, or in a few cases their personal concerns. He was persistent in living, engaging others, and learning and growing even in the last months of his life. I was blessed by my visits with him. He showed his appreciation for what I had to offer in friendship, intellectual stimulation, and music. We often sang together. Even during the last stretch when he found it so difficult to put words together for a full sentence, if I played the guitar and sang with him, he eagerly sang along in the song. I saw him persist in living, exploring, growing, learning, and in loving others.

We do not all have the same opportunities. It’s often said that life is unfair. But whatever hand I am dealt, I want to still play the game, to be actively involved in living. Some of us are so engaged in making a living or pursuing the necessities of life, it might seem there’s no time to do anything else. When I look back at some of those times, I wish I had handled my work more effectively, and made that Saturday morning with a son the most important time of the week. Because it was.

For some older adults, persisting in living is watching their grandchildren in concerts, in games, or playing with them as often as possible. It may be babysitting so their adult son or daughter can get out to make a living. For some people without those opportunities, it might be caring for a few plants by a window, or taking care of a pet, enjoying its lively response. Researchers have found that in nursing homes where pets and plants were introduced, the sterile atmosphere gave way to more perky living. The residents became more alert, more healthy and happy.

Even though I know these things, some days still slip by while I am reading the news, or watching a program on TV. Even when I need to vacuum, it’s worthwhile. When I can walk in the outdoors, the day is bright. When I visit with a friend, it is real living, and the day is filled with purpose. The Bible doesn’t say much about life goals, or daily check lists, not in the words to which 1we are accustomed. But it does say - Seek first his kingdom, and all these things will be added to you as well.

I don’t want to let a single day slip by without living the good life in it. That doesn’t mean I will get to do whatever I want in any particular day. I may be stuck in traffic, or I may be waiting for a repairman to show up. But in that day, too, if I use my moments within the limits that day presents, it will be a good day. And I will persist in living, and not just drifting. That is my way of experiencing the persistence of life.

© Stanley Hagemeyer 2021

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