By Juanita Floyd
Educator Benjamin Mays said, “It isn’t how long one lives, but how well. Jesus died at 33; Joan of Arc at 19; Byron and Burns at 33; Marlowe at 29 – and Martin Luther King Jr. at 39.”
Last Saturday I attended the homegoing services of Cetorie Morris, an 18 year old THS senior student; classmate of my son and a friend to my daughter. During the service, many of his peers and cousins talked about his beautiful smile, his loyalty and how he loved to hug.
His pastor, the Rev. Willie Wilson, talked about the young man’s love of people, church and football. He said, “Cetorie was a very loving and caring person and had a sincere heart. He loved his little brothers and family.” Wilson’s message to the young and old was entitled, “Don’t be blindsided – It is appointed unto man to die.”
Cetorie’s English teacher, Ms. April Friar, said, “Philosopher and writer John Locke said, ‘There is frequently more to learn from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men.’” She commented on his thirst for knowledge. He was always asking questions in and outside of her classroom. On Friday, a few hours before his death – the final words that she heard from him: “Ms. Friar, do you love me?” She answered, “Of course, I love you, Cetorie.”
He asked this question several times. She didn’t know that would be the last time she would see this bright and inquisitive student alive.
Looking at that casket, I saw the face of my children, mother, sisters, brothers, friends, myself, etc. I realized that at any given moment – it very easily could have been any of us. We just don’t know when, nor do we know who – young or old – will be the next to depart.
As much as we would like to orchestrate long, fruitful, productive lives, it is not we who hold our future. We can’t predict life. You never know when the final moment will come.
I thought about my cousin, Crystal, who lives in Chicago, singing a powerful song entitled, “My Times are in His Hand.” The words began to ring in my spirit, “If I were in control of my life, I think (I know) that I would have worked things out differently, there would be no hurt, no pain, no disappointments.
“Of these things, my life would be free – but that just goes to show, how little I know. God controls my life and I’m learning each and every day to trust Him, come what may … all of the good, all of the bad, all of the hurt, all of the pain. My times are in the His hands.”
As I sat there in that auditorium, crying along with my children and others, I asked myself, “What am I doing with my ‘times’? What things should I work out differently while I have a chance? Have I taught my children the right set of values of loving and being kind to others regardless of color? Have I lived a life that is pleasing in His sight? Do I need to mend relationships?”
My pastor, Hayes Long, often says in his sermons that there are other days besides Christmas and Thanksgiving that one should be a blessing to others. During this season of giving and sharing, have I helped my fellowman without thought or throughout the year? Do I need to give more? Have I been selfish?
I agree with Dr. Mays – it isn’t how long one lives, but how well one lives during his time on earth. Friends, what are you doing with your “times”? Are you giving? Do you love? Are you doing the best you can with your life? Do you need to work things out differently in your life while you can? Will you have an impact on peoples’ lives as 18 year old Cetorie did? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president forFinance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.