Resolutions and lists for the new year

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I’m not doing New Year’s resolutions this year. I have written some down over the years with varying degrees of success. I even put together a “bucket list” or two over the years. Not a great deal of success there either.

I still haven’t made it to England or Scotland or Vietnam. All those were on the bucket list. It does look like I may make it to Cuba, at least a portion of it, this year. And I have given up on the goal of competing in the Battle of Atlanta Karate Tournament (senior division) if that tournament still even exists.

Not that resolutions or lists are a bad thing. They can be quite helpful.

This year, however, I’m just not concerned about it. In the spring of 2016, I contracted a virus from somewhere that apparently settled in my heart, I didn’t know the ramifications of that event at the time but, by the end of the summer, I was taken to the emergency room by ambulance where I discovered that the reasons for my severe shortness of breath, constant fatigue, and other issues at the time were heart related. I had a bad case of atrial fibrillation and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

I began some serious treatment, had two cardioversions to electrically “shock” my heart back into a normal rhythm, went through 36 sessions of cardiac rehabilitation, had blood drawn so much I ceased to care about the needle (which I despise), and was placed on a diet of multiple medications.

Then, nine months later, I had a total knee replacement which resulted in more hospitalization, more rehab of a different kind, and learning how to walk all over again. And I am looking at the other knee being replaced in a month or two.

I have discovered that I am not invincible, that mortality is potentially closer than I imagined, that some things in life (like resolutions and lists) seem less important now, and that the days of my life — and all our lives — are numbered.

I have learned that, while it may be nostalgic to look back and embrace the pleasant memories and to wonder what might have been, it really is a pointless exercise. That “now” matters more than “then” and that the possibility of tomorrow is an eternal hope but not a guarantee.

I have learned that to fail to embrace the daily experiences is a mistake and may even be a tragedy.

The last year and a half has actually been a wondrous time in many ways. I have come to appreciate well-written books — for leisure, not just for study or self-improvement.

I watched from a distance as two of my grandsons who are cousins, Isaac and Tristan, endured the rigors of Parris Island and became United States Marines. They were both in the same Recruit Training Battalion, the 2nd RTBn, as I was in 47 years ago.

I’ve watched as the youngest grandson, Sam, a college student, began to lift weights and attain to a strength that I could never have matched on my best day.

I saw a new granddaughter, Isabella, our 13th grandchild (we lost one a couple of years ago) come into the world and I have beamed with pride as the other eight girls have continued to become sweet, lovely young ladies.

My wife retired this year as Associate Dean and Professor Emerita from the University of West Georgia so she’s here all the time and that’s a whole new kind of nice. She says that retirement is “greatly underrated.”

I am still working full-time, although the energy level isn’t the same and I tire more easily than before — that pesky heart failure thingy. No retirement plans in the future at this point.

We are, however, thinking about downsizing, selling our house, and moving into a place about a third the size of the house we have now. Oh, and no stairs in the proposed new house.

So, here’s the plan. I don’t intend to challenge the new year, wrestle with it, conquer it, seize it, or squeeze it to get all I can out of it.

I intend to experience it. To bask in it. To take each day as it comes. I intend to receive each day as a gift for as long as those days last — hopefully many, many of them. I intend to laugh more, to encourage more, and to forgive more. I intend to love more.

I intend to enjoy my family and my friends, to appreciate God and all His wonders, to do, as best I can, whatever tasks and responsibilities come my way. I intend to let others rant about politics, to bemoan the state of the world, and to make every molehill into a mountain.

I don’t have the time for it. I mean, really, I don’t have the time. Not as much time as I used to have, anyway. I thought I had all the time in the world but the lesson this last season has taught me is that I have no idea how much time I have.

It has been said that no one, at the end of his or her life, ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Sometimes the lessons are learned late, but better that, than not at all.

The only legacy we will leave behind is our family and the influence we may have had on others. That’s it, for the vast majority of us. When it comes down to it, that’s all that we will ever do that really matters. Lists and resolutions have their place … but not a very high place.

“So then I recommended enjoyment of life, because it is better on earth for a man to eat, drink, and be happy, since this will stay with him throughout his struggle all the days of his life, which God grants him on earth.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 ISV.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA on Ga. Highway 34 between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]