I’m of the mind to think that everyone is on a journey. What we experience as human beings is nothing less. On April 8th, 2012, my wife went on the ultimate journey . . . from this life to the next. Her name was Toni. Perhaps you don't believe in an afterlife, life-after-death, the hereafter, kingdom come, eternity, heaven, immortality, nirvana, paradise, universal mind, or higher consciousness. Nevertheless, walking through the portal of death is the ultimate journey, whether it ends at the door, or opens to an unimaginable new beginning.
I hold to the latter. Yet despite my belief in something more beyond the grave, losing my wife has impacted me more than anything I can recall over my 58 years of trekking the trails of this planet. So much so, I made the decision to begin a new journey, to launch out on a new trail, one that I’m calling the “uttermost road.” It’s both a literal road and a metaphorical one.
Toni and I were more than mere spousal placeholders for one another (“husband” and “wife”), but partners in life, best friends, soul mates, or whatever available descriptors can be used to indicate we were twined tightly together . . . “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” Toni and I had no children, so it was just the two of us for over 25 years of marriage. Thus, her absence created a huge void. I address this in more detail in my book to be released later this year, Love Your Guts Out, so it’s enough to say here that life post-Toni has been very difficult. Yet, at the same time, transformational.
Toni’s passing caused me to reevaluate what’s most important in life and revisit the questions pertaining to meaning, purpose, and significance. In the year following her death, several acquaintances about my age and younger died unexpectedly or “before their time.” I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no guarantees. Debate, if you will, the biblical idea that our days are numbered by God, or even the idea that God wields a hedge of protection around those who are involved in a higher calling or task . . . protection until the mission is accomplished. Personally, even if I believe in divine protection, I'm not sure if I'll know when my “assignment” is over, when the mission is completed. Maybe crossing the finish line comes tomorrow. If it's as they say, "God only knows," then it might as well be tomorrow.
No doubt you’ve heard the old adage that says to live your life like today was your last. Or consider the question that is often raised, “What would you do if you knew that today was the last day of your life?” After Toni’s death, I’ve relentlessly pondered this adage in search of an answer.
The uttermost road is the result of my pondering and presently my attempt to answer this question.
It’s rather obvious, really. Life is so fragile . . . and so brief. Try your best to extend it or preserve it, but you will ultimately fail. You can’t hold on to it. It slips through your fingers. Put another way, in the words of Jesus as reflected in Luke 9:24-25,
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (NIV)
I came across a fresh, relevant, and poignant translation for me from this same passage in Luke:
“If you try to avoid danger and risk, then you’ll lose everything. If you let go of your life and risk all for My sake, then your life will be rescued, healed, made whole and full. Listen, what good does it do you if you gain everything—if the whole world is in your pocket—but then your own life slips through your fingers and is lost to you?” (The Voice)
My pockets aren't deep, so I don't have much to lose. All I have to lose is my life, and what is that, really? This is one of the reasons I decided to sell my house, resign from my job, and hit the road indefinitely as an itinerant minister and writer. I don't want to simply coast to the finish line before I cash it in. I don't want to conservatively sit around protecting my little “nest egg” for a day when I’m old and feeble . . . a day that may never come. My purpose might end tomorrow. I want to invest what I have now in things that matter forever, if there is one . . . a forever. If not, then in things that matter only now . . . like people who are but a flicker. They're worth much more than the cost of the journey. Either way, it takes traveling the same road, the uttermost road. Besides, Creator has my back.
Therefore, I’ve committed myself to travel the uttermost road, to live my life for the purposes of Creator and to honor Toni with everything I am from my innermost to my uttermost for the rest of my days,
. . . even if one more is all I have left.