It's Time To Hang On!
© Ferna Lary Mills
Today there's a strong, cold wind blowing. Winter is on the way and its roaring in as strongly
as the lion of March, only much colder. Standing at the window, staring out at the dogwood
tree in the front yard, I'm utterly amazed. The leaves are all gone, scattered in the wind, except
for one lonely leaf on one of the upper branches. The gusts pick up and bend the branches far
to the right, then whip back over to the left, yet that one leaf still hangs on.

Why does this one leaf hang on when all of its friends and family are long gone? Does it know
it's the last of its kind left on this barren tree? Does it hang on for fear of letting go, or because
of its determination to make it through just one more day? To see one more sunrise? To soak
up just one more drop of dew?

My father was the youngest of 13 children, and one by one they each passed from this life to
their heavenly home, until one day, he was faced with the fact that he was the only one left. He
reminded me much of this last leaf. His grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and every
sibling were gone, leaving him the patriarch of our family. Sure, there were many other family
members: children, grandchildren, and a few cousins here and there, but after being the
youngest of his family for so many decades, suddenly he was the oldest, at the young age of
70. He once told me he felt like he had a sign around his neck that read "NEXT".  I know he
was lonely and frightened for we had talked about it on numerous occasions, yet he hung on
to that tree for dear life, literally. He wanted to see every sunrise and every sunset. He wanted
to hear laughter, and most of all he wanted to love and be loved. (Of course, he also wanted to
play golf!)

His last living sibling, a brother, was almost in the same boat and they had even discussed
what it would be like to be the last one left behind. They had joked about which of them would
go first. His brother was no stranger to grief, having lost the same siblings as my father, the
same parents, same aunts and uncles and grandparents, in addition to having lost one of his
own children. His wife had been ill for many years and when she passed away, he literally
"gave up". It's said that he died from a broken heart. Four weeks after he buried his wife, he
told his daughter he was just too tired. He went to bed and passed away in his sleep.

I'm sure there are many in this same circumstance of being the last leaf on the family tree.
They have lived through the death of many of their loved ones and are now the sole surviving
sibling left behind. I can't begin to understand how that must feel, but as I get older, I'm
beginning to see it. In this self same circumstance, it seems there are two kinds of people:
Those who seem to "give up" and let go of the tree, and those who cling to life with every
muscle in their body. What makes the difference? I really don't think there is one. Just like this
dogwood tree.

This leaf hangs on because it isn't time to let go, yet. When it's time, it will fall from the tree just
as the others before it. Almost as proof that it isn't time yet, it still remains attached to this tree,
even in the cruelest cold winter wind. So, who determines when it's time? Us? Maybe, in some
circumstances, such as those who take life and death into their own hands and commit
suicide. But other than that, I believe the scriptures that state we all have a timetable ~ God's
timetable. "A time to be born and a time to die." Someone in our family will be first. Someone
will be last. But we all have a certain time allotted us to walk on this earthly sod; a certain
number of sunrises to witness, and a certain number of sunsets to enjoy.

The big question is not why do some live long and others die young? Nor is it why do some
hang on and some seem to just give up? It's really a question of "time", and the big question is
what will we do during our allotted time? If you knew for a fact you had only 24 hours left, what
would you do? What would you change? How would you live your life differently?

Whether you have just lost a loved one, or whether you are the absolute last surviving member
of your entire family, you are still here, hanging on to that tree, maybe even being whipped
back and forth with the cold gusts of winter, struggling with your grief. But you are still hanging
on! Why? Because it's time to hang on. It's time to realize that there is still a reason why you
are here. God does have a reason and it's our task to find out why by seeking His guidance in
our life.

How many days, months, or years do we have left? Only God knows. Spend some time getting
closer to God, seeking His face, talking to Him in fervent prayer, and He WILL show you the
answers you seek. In the meantime, hang on to your branch. Just the act of hanging on will be
an encouragement to someone else. You may never know who your strength helped to
strengthen. You may never know who your perseverance helped to persevere.

In the meantime, winter's coming. Bundle up and take care of YOU. May God bless you and
bring you His
blessed peace.


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