When I was a child, I found the bumper sticker philosophy of “Life’s a b*tch, then you die” to be incredibly funny.

I was a child.

Having served bi-vocationally the past four years (and in “professional” ministry for almost 20), the complete stupidity of that statement now amazes me.

I have been honored to be with many families during the time in which a loved one took their last breath.

Whether that person was a teenager or someone several years past retirement…

Whether that person was dying from a terminal disease or it was sudden…

Whether a multitude of family members were gathered or just a few…

…it is never easy.

Yesterday, as my father and I sat at my 45 year-old brother’s bedside, a multitude of thoughts continued to race through my head. I shared memories of our childhood. (I even shared a few stories my father had never heard. Oops! My brother and I did some VERY dumb things!) My dad shared memories and stories of times he and my brother had worked together on construction projects. Joys and sorrows, we filled hour after hour with the trivial and the triumphant.

Are there regrets? That’s a silly question. Of course there are regrets. Anyone who claims that they have no regrets in life is lying. Life is not perfect and no one is immune from making mistakes.

But regrets do not have to be anchors. As the Psalmist said, Wash away all my iniquity. Cleanse me from my sin. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the crushed bones rejoice. (from Psalm 51)

What do we do with those things we wish had been different? What do we do with those regrets? Regrets are lessons. Instead of saying, “I wish I had…” we need to say “NOW I will…”

Instead of saying, I wish I had spent more time with him, we need to say, NOW I will spend more time with…

Instead of saying, I wish I had said…, we NEED TO SAY IT.

Instead of saying, I wish I had done…, we need to DO IT.

It was an honor to sit with my brother as he drew his last breath. I read Psalm 23 and prayed with him. Minutes later, he left this earth – free from suffering and pain.

He leaves behind a family and friends that loved him – imperfections and all. I am amazed at my sister-in-law. She’s a momma-bear with a ferocity and strength greater than my own. His eldest son is demonstrating a maturity and character that makes me proud. I look at Miss Em and see such a wonderful young lady of wisdom and grace. I look forward to seeing how his youngest will grow.

You see, life on this earth is not about the past. It is about the present and the future. What can you do now? What can you do tomorrow? Therein lies your next step. How will you take it?

My trust and faith is in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His strength is greater than mine. The Peace He gives surpasses understanding. The joy I have in my relationship with Him is what makes me complete. I choose to strive to continue to live my life, stumbling forward, and seeking to reflect Him as best as this weak vessel can.

And I look forward to the Reunion. I look forward to the Celebration that awaits. Until then, stay out of my room, big brother. You never let me in yours!

Rest in Peace – Joseph Kent Guise: November 22, 1968 – December 23, 2013