Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Parting Words

One of my college heroes passed away recently. He was an amazing musician, a man of many talents and he wrote beautiful and moving lyrics. My own guitar style has been heavily influenced by his technique, and I have almost a dozen vinyl record albums of his that are worn down past the grooves. One of my best college memories is a concert of his that I attended in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He played alone, but his talented display made it seem as if five musicians were playing simultaneously on stage.

Dan Fogelberg was an idol of sorts for me. He inspired me to improve on my musical aptitude, and to learn multiple musical instruments. His song, “The Leader of The Band”, was written to honor his own father and paid tribute to the inspiration he had provided to Dan as he grew up. The fact that Dan spent a good deal of his time at his ranch in Colorado, not far from where I live, encouraged me to keep an eye out for him whenever I was in the Estes Park area.

On December 16, 2007, Dan succumbed to prostate cancer, after battling the disease courageously for several years. I confess that I had lost track of him over time, so I spent some minutes on his website after learning of his passing. I was ready to read more inspirational thoughts from him, especially knowing that he had time to ponder his last words.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed.

Dan’s website summarized with this final thought to his readers – men should get screened early for prostate cancer. He passed on his belief that his life might have been saved or lengthened had he been tested earlier. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I do not mean to dishonor those whose lives have been touched by cancer. My own brother was taken by it when he was twenty-one years old. And it is indeed important to take care of our health where we can. But is this level of depth sufficient to sum up a life?

Dan’s lyrics, while often moving, imply a humanist view of thinking. He did significant work with the environmentalist movement, and sometimes wrote songs of protest. There were rarely any references to God or Jesus in his lyrics (though “Wandering Shepherd” comes to mind). But, I can’t help but wonder, did Dan miss the biggest point of all in life? Did he miss out on God?

What would each of us write as our parting words if we knew that we were going to die soon? What words would we pass on to others when trying to impart our life’s lessons? If you had a hundred words to leave a message to your children, what would you say? Would your words encourage your children to enjoy life more, spend less time working and more time playing with the kids, or to be more involved in your community?

For me, the ultimate goal is to join with my family in heaven for eternity, honoring God and worshiping Him and enjoying everlasting fellowship with God’s chosen people. Here’s an idea. I vow to write out just such a parting statement and keep it handy. And I commit to updating it every six months. It will serve as a torch to pass on to the next generation of my family, and it will also be a reminder for me about how I should live. After all, I don’t know when God has planned to call me home. I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to tell what I have learned.

And I sincerely hope that Dan will be waiting there in heaven with two guitars. We’ll have a long time to write music together.

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