Life’s Certainties

Benjamin Franklin is the one who said, “In this world, nothing can be certain except death and taxes.” This has not changed since he penned those words more than 200 years ago. Nobody is more certain about death and taxes than the people who are living in the final third of their lives. The kind of care that they may need is subsidized by the government based on last year’s net income taxes. They need to plan how to pass along their estate with more for legacy and less for government. They find themselves attending more and more funerals to honour the ones with whom they shouldered life. With every passing year, these certainties find centre stage in the lives of those who are living around and past the average life expectancy in Canada.

Is it true that nothing else is certain? Only death and taxes? I had the privilege of walking through a newly opened garden on our campus with the main donor. The garden has 10 fountains, dripping wisteria, dancing irises and showy clematis. We strolled casually around the place examining the landscape, the fountains and the seating. There were several people enjoying the splashing sounds of the high fountains and others mesmerized by the gentle gurgle of the low ones. Conversations and huddles of folks who were being rejuvenated in the embrace of nature.

As we walked, he shared, “I cry a lot these days, but I’m filled with joy.” He shared his losses over the decades, including times when he lost a child to painful choices, gained grandchildren through the hardship and watched a child whither under the grip of cancer. He also shares how he met his wife of 60 years and how challenging it is to provide care to someone so precious and vulnerable now living in residential care. He tells the story of how he met her and how intimidating her brothers were when he came to pick her up on the first date. He laughs about buying his first car – flashy and powerful. He laughs at his impetuous younger self. He wanted to show his in-laws that he could be successful and provide for their precious girl. He’s still loving and providing for that precious girl.

And then our conversation turns to the certainties of his life. He is a spiritual man who often asks God to show him the meaning of it all. He lives in mystery. He surrendered his heart to follow Christ while he was a teenager. It was as a young man that he was called into spiritual leadership by the Holy Spirit. “I am nothing important,” he says humbly,.“I don’t even have an education, but God asked me to help lead His people, so I did. I’ve been thinking a lot these days. I think about beauty. Truth. Love. It’s why I wanted to have a garden for these people,” he points to the residential care hospital. “They need to experience the beauty of this world, the truth of God, His love and the love of others.”

I feel a tear roll down my cheek. This man is speaking the heart of God. He is speaking the kingdom of God. God wants a garden here, too. He wants to bless the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. He wants to bless those who mourn, for they will be comforted. He wants to bless those who hunger and thirst for righteousness by filling them up. Give and it will be given to you –  good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over.

As we walk the garden path, I think about the parable of the talents (money). A man goes on a journey and entrusts his property to his servants. He gives talents to the servants according to their ability. Some of the servants used their talents to make more talents. One of them buried his talent in the ground. When the master returns, the servants give back the talents and the ones that they have gained. They are praised by the master. The one who buried the talent is admonished severely for not even being smart enough to gain interest on the talent from the bank.

The man who is walking with me has taken what was entrusted him and created more with it. He didn’t bury the talents, but held them with hands wide open for the kingdom of God. He knows that he will enjoy his own walks in this garden but his time is coming to an end. He wants this garden for generations to come. “We need spiritual friendships,” he says. “It’s one of the good things about living here. We need that kind of connection.” The garden is a good place for nurturing this spiritual connection.

The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed – the tiniest of seeds. You plant it in a garden and a large tree grows producing branches for all the birds to perch. O God, grow Your kingdom here in this garden. Grow Your kingdom here in my life. Take the tiny seeds of my surrender, my service, my generosity and grow an abundance of beauty, truth and love. Make my life a refuge for many as I take my refuge in You.

We share the future possibilities of this garden – 60th anniversary parties under the gazebo, birthday parties, family gatherings, moments of solitude, opportunity to bring our hearts to our Maker. May all who come here find beauty, truth and love in the many years that this garden will minister to the spirit. The fountains are dancing in delight, splashing their agreement and contribution. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Lives that are in their final years bring moments to reflect. The time left is short but there is so very much of it each day. Reflection and contemplation in the garden. This is the refuge of Jesus Christ. He found beauty, truth, love, rest in the garden. He experienced aloneness and needed His best friends’ support in the garden. He begged God to take him out of the journey that was coming. He was fully human in His anguish, fears and loneliness. He needed a garden and understands why we need a garden, too.

And so, Benjamin Franklin, we know that there are even more certainties in life than death and taxes. There is the certainty that the kingdom of God is brought to our lives through the planting of tiny seeds of obedience – our own and others. There is the certainty that nature’s beauty is a sure path to the Divine’s heart. There is the certainty that we need a garden – a quiet place to meet our Maker. There is the certainty of human frailty – of spirit, body and mind. There is the certainty that we need spiritual friendships when our journey is too much to bear. There is the certainty that even when we cry, we can be filled with joy. There is the certainty that the heart of love that beats into our own hearts through the Holy Spirit will come upon us, guide us, comfort us and lead us into all truth.

Sharon Simpson is the Director of Communications and Marketing at Menno Place  in Abbotsford, BC.

Sharon Simpson

Sharon Simpson

Sharon Simpson is the Director, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at Menno Place, a senior’s campus-of-care located in Abbotsford, BC. She regularly writes for Menno Place, The Light Magazine, and the MB Herald.