Ships That Pass In The Night
© Betty Sue Eaton
"Like ships that pass in the night, suddenly they appear and for one glorious moment in time,
they are close enough for us to touch, but we can't make them stay. They are on a voyage and
must sail on their way until they disappear beyond the horizon and are gone on to another

Those words were spoken at the funeral on my youngest daughter, Paula who, at age eleven,
had been struck down by a careless driver on his way to a school homecoming football game
and was running late. Late by our reckoning, but by God's reckoning, right on time to take
Paula home. I had to experience all the anxiety, disbelief, denial, anger - oh, what anger, and
then finally the acceptance of the tragedy. The real tragedy was that like most of us, we do not
plan for that day; we do not plan to give all the love or attention every day to those who are
close to us, and whom we never could imagine being taken from us. Most of us don't really pay
attention to the loving moments in between other duties like shopping for groceries, going to
work, going to church, visiting families on vacation, going to school bake sales and games and
contests and ... and ... you get the idea, and you have probably lived through all of those
activities and maybe still do.

After the shock of loss has worn off - or should I say becomes bearable, then comes the guilt!
If I had known she would be taken from us, I would have ... If I had only know her time with us
would be so short, I could have ... I know that I neglected to ... But I did have to go to work ...
All these are excuses to ease our guilt for just being human. Then comes the work trying to
find a way to make up for the time we failed to take advantage of when we had it. But how do
you make up for the lost time when it's too late?  I pondered that question in my mind for the
longest time, and for the longest time, came up without any answers. The reality is that once
time is passed and spent, it's gone forever and cannot be recalled nor atoned.

Then it came to me in a moment when my thoughts were blessedly free of the pangs of guilt:  
Pay more attention to what God is telling you! He told you that your days on earth were
numbered even as the hairs on your head! Why didn't you believe Him? Did you think that you
and everyone in your family were immortal? When God sent Jesus to live among men, He
even knew the days that Christ would be allowed to live in the flesh of mortals. If He could
number the days of His only begotten son, don't you believe that He also numbered your
days? "The day of the Lord is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord:
the mighty man shall cry there bitterly". (Zephaniah 1-14)

Of course, we all know that SOME time, SOME day, each of us will die, but in the meantime,
we go about our busy-ness without a thought of time fast running out. We go about our days
casually as though we would never die and there would always be time enough to 'take care'
of everything! Someday, we will have time enough to make doll clothes with her; someday we
will have time to show her how to make brownies; someday we will take time to have a great,
fancy, surprise birthday party for her and invite all her school friends! Little did we think that
THIS birthday would be her last here on earth, but it was!

In the grand scheme of things, the older generations will pass on and new generations will
arise and grow old, then they, too will pass on, and in turn be replaced. That is what throws us
when we lose someone contrary to the grand scheme: Children. They are not supposed to
precede their parents in death, but sometimes they do! That fact alone is reason enough for
each of us to keep loving and being aware of our children - in fact, keeping all of our families
uppermost in our minds and do the chores of everyday in the meantime. In that manner, we will
not have to be plagued by guilt when a tragedy does strike and we have to say, "I didn't know
we would lose her (or him) so soon!"  Or, "If I had known, I would have loved her (him) more; I
would have paid more attention to being with them, just BEING with her (him)!"

"Like two ships passing in the night" are the generations, and for a while - a blink of an eye in
God's reckoning, we are families laughing, loving, caring for each other. And like two ships
passing in the night, one sails away beyond the horizon to their destination in heaven, leaving
one behind to follow in their own time. But surely, they too, will meet another ship and sail
away over the horizon. Each voyage has a very finite number of days, years to be completed,
but most certainly, they will be completed in God's own time. Take Him along on your voyage
and you will never have to say, "I'm sorry I didn't take the time to be with my family and love
them more".


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