By DANNY MINTON
Browsing through a scrapbook of World War I that belonged to my great-grandmother, I came across a poem from 1916 by a young British soldier named Leslie Coulson. The poem expressed a little of the loneliness and longing to be back home and out of harm’s way.
“When I Come Home”
When I come home and leave behind
Dark things I would not call to mind,
I’ll taste good ale and home-made bread,
And see white sheets and pillow spread;
And there is one who’ll softly creep
To kiss me, ere I fall asleep
And tuck me ‘neath the counterpane,
And I shall be a boy again
When I come home!
When I come home, from dark to light
And tread the roadways long and white,
And tramp the lanes I tramped of yore,
And see the village greens once more,
The tranquil farms, the meadows free,
The friendly trees that nod to me,
And hear the lark beneath the sun,
‘Twill be good pay for what I’ve done
When I come home!
Reading this poem made me think of all those who have ever gone to war and had the desire not to fight but to be back in the safety of their homes. Tens of thousands of young men and women have gone off to battle over the decades. Most of them never knowing if the morning that they awoke would be their last day alive. Many others, as they entered battles, would write parting letters to their family and loved ones. For thousands of soldiers, these would be the last words spoken to those so dear to each of them.
If we stop and think about it, none of us ever know if it will be our last day each morning when we awake. A friend of mine always told people he’d live to be a hundred. He was active, and in good health until one day, he caught a cold that turned into pneumonia. A good strong Christian man who planned to live to reach a hundred passed away at eighty-one, far short of his goal.
When we awake, we probably rarely, if ever, stop to think that this could be our last day. There are no final letters or thoughts on our minds. The younger we are, the less likely we are to put such thoughts in our minds. After all, there is always tomorrow.
If today was your last day, what would you want to do? What words would you want to leave with someone? Is there a relationship that needs mending? Is there a call you would like to make and a voice you’d like to hear one more time? What memory would you want to leave to those who would never see you again in this life?
On the other hand, what would you like to say to someone who may be in their last days? I have often heard regret in the voices of those who have lost someone. I wished I had called them. The last thing I did was get angry with them. They wanted to talk, and I told them I didn’t have time. I wish I could go back and change our last moments.
If this was yours or a loved one’s last day, what would be important to you? Would it be staying at work late to make more money? Would it be spending time alone, not bothered by the noise and intrusion of your time by others? Maybe the things of this life would take on less importance, and the people in our lives would be more precious. Our words would likely be kinder and more loving. If this were the last day, life would look so much different.
Jesus told the parable of a man whose life was so profitable that he built more barns to hold all his good fortune. “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have prepared?’ Luke 12:18-20 (NASB)
Our life is more than just ourselves and the things we own. It’s our relationship with those around us. Take time to appreciate the people in your life. Live a life of kindness and love toward others. Live each day like it was your last or the last of those you love. Never regret what you should have said or done.
On October 7, 1916, Leslie Coulson died in action at the Battle of Le Transloy. He never returned home.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ