“. . . I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.”
– John 15:16
When we met Max he was living in the same facility where my mother was being cared for during her final days. You could always find him sitting in his motorized wheelchair near the front door where he would offer warm cheerful greetings to everyone entering or leaving. We seldom passed up an opportunity to spend some time with him as his positive attitude and gentle spirit always lifted ours. Over time we learned some things about his life, that at one time he had been quite a prominent and successful businessman, banker and rancher until a debilitating stroke rendered him practically quadriplegic.
Despite his physical limitations Max’s mind was crystal clear. Interesting, inquisitive and funny, he never failed to remember our names, where we were from, or what we did for a living. Plus, he did something I will never forget. At the conclusion of every conversation just before parting ways he would remind us of the importance of living each day to the fullest. Then, looking you right in the eye he always ended with this: “Remember,” he would say, “this is not dress rehearsal.”
One of the exercises I often do with my coaching clients is have them write down what they would like their epitaph to say, that is a short sentence or phrase that would sum up what their life has been about. The result, at least for those who take this little endeavor seriously, is that they have essentially created a vision statement for their lives, which in turn provides them a clear sense of purpose and direction.
At first I was puzzled by what Max meant about this not being “dress rehearsal”, thinking he was referring to his disability. Except Max didn’t seem the type to take pity on himself – quite the contrary in fact. No, I think perhaps long before he became disabled Max had considered his own epitaph, had committed to living his life to its fullest and to “bear fruit – fruit that will last,” and continued to do so by engaging people in cheerful conversation at the front door. And his trademark comment, “remember, this is not dress rehearsal,” was just his little way of encouraging others to do the same.