July 30, 2012

As ready to leave it as I was to come into it

Robert Jones Burdette (pictured here in his study, shortly before his death) had been thinking about his own mortality at least since his 38th birthday. Following Biblical predictions, he believed that his own life would end when he was 70 years old. By then, he was living in California and had arranged for the Los Angeles Times to publish a letter of his on his 70th birthday, July 30, 1914.

In it, he reiterated his belief that he would live to be 70. Though he admitted there were times when he feared death, he believed God would allow him to survive to age 70. As a Baptist minister, his faith was strong enough to say this with confidence. Even during the Civil War (for which he fought in an Illinois regiment of volunteers), he had faith. Further, he knew that life was "not a treadmill" — but "a country through which you are journeying."

One very impressive feeling comes to you on the morning of your seventieth birthday. If you believe as I do, this is your last birthday anniversary. No more birthdays. Why, if you look at it through my spectacles, you're through with time. This is the beginning of eternity.

Some men passing on from this point say, "Now I am living on borrowed time." Not much you are not. There is no such thing as borrowed time. It's the freest gift in the universe.

Burdette considered his life something that was both part of the world and on behalf of the world. "It has been a good, fair world to live in with both eyes wide open, but it is no world for fools," he concluded in his article. "I am as ready to leave it as I was to come into it. And as I was brought into it without my wishes being consulted, I will expect to be called out of it just as summarily, and will go just as willingly as I came." In the four months that followed before his death, as predicted, at age 70, he considered each day a beautiful blessing. "One day at a time, so life runs on," according to one journal entry.

1 comment:

  1. What a remarkably peaceful soul. I envy his sense of presence, being and acceptance.