In a letter by Major Sullivan Ballou, Union Army’s 2nd Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers to his wife Sarah, Sullivan wrote of his love for her and his country. He gave the “last full measure” on July 28, 1861 when the 32 year old lawyer and father of two small boys, Edgar and Willie, died on the battlefield. If given notice by God of our demise what would we say?
Would they speak of our love or ask forgiveness for the wrongs we have done? These are some of the final words by Major Ballou:
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break. The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been!
…and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
The closeness of death might render an opportunity to say words and declare feelings long held in by fear, shame or regret. Would we ask for forgiveness or release others from their burdens by extending forgiveness? Why is death the motivation which causes action? We can read the words from his heart and feel the anticipation the next few hours or days would bring to him and his two-thousand men.
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
Ecclesiates 7:2 (NIV)
We need to be reminded of the closeness of death and the fact we have no an idea of its approach. Death should not cause our movement towards forgiveness and reconciliation because it is the duty of all believers to live as if death is near. Jesus told us to take up our crosses and only the condemned carried a cross. Death is the destiny of everyone and we should take this to heart to determine our course in all relationships.