Tomorrow May Mean Goodbye

Even as a lad I was keenly aware that death arrives unexpectedly and too soon. My grandpa died when I was only nine years old.  Mr. Bowdie, a close family friend died just a few days before my seventh birthday.  Both of these deaths pchild_cryingrofoundly affected me.

When Mr. Bowdie died, we were supposed to spend the weekend fishing, just like the week before when I had caught my first fish ever.  It was almost a miracle that anyone could catch a fish that day. Mr. Bowdie had a worn-out boat and motor that refused to start that day.  Dad stuck a cane pole in my hand while he and Mr. Bowdie wrestled with the old Evinrude. The boat was half in the water half on the bank. We were making more noise than any fish would brave being around. Somehow a huge old carp happened to swallow the tomato worm on my hook.  I pulled him in with shouts of joy and pride over my first trophy.

Mister Bowdie laughed and jumped up and down more than I did. He promised that the next weekend he would have the motor fixed and we would learn what it was like to catch a whole boatload of fish, together. Sleep didn’t come easy that week as I visualized everything Mr. Bowdie promised.

When the phone rang, I was lying on the floor near dad’s chair watching “Gunsmoke”.  I could tell from dad’s hushed tones that something was wrong.  When he told us that Mr. Bowdie was dead my whole world went dark. I could feel the tightness and lump in my throat. Tears poured uncontrolled down my cheeks.  My tender little boy heart broke for the first time, leaving the harsh promise of many more breakings to come.

I knew there would be no more sitting in the boat with Mr. Bowdie. There would be no more watching him saucer his coffee, no more digging in his huge tool box. There would never be a time to sit in his lap listening to his fish stories. Mister Bowdie was gone. We would never have those special times together again.  Anything we planned to do could never be done because death stole our future.

Fast forward a few years and my world would be vastly different. My parents divorced. My sister and I moved to Illinois with our mom.  We lived in a few rooms above our landlords the Elluel’s. They owned a telephone and we did not.  We had to go downstairs if we ever got a phone call.  Usually, that only happened on birthdays and Christmas. Phone calls from Texas were precious and seldom came.  I treasured every talk with my dad. My feet didn’t  touch the treads as I leaped down the stairs to the lower floor landing. When I got to the phone I heard the same voice that announced death once before. Dad told us how, “Grandpa had been very sick and just wasn’t strong enough to recover from pneumonia.”  I could feel that familiar ripping of my heart, the heavy cloud of darkness overshadowing me. Oh, how I wanted to run and hide from Dad’s sad voice and the words he spoke.

Cemetery

This time the pain was a little different. At nine years old, I had time to make plans to go to Dickens, Texas and help Granny and Grandpa. I even dreamed about shining his shoes and taking him squirrel hunting.  I promised Grandpa in the summer that I would come help him take care of Granny who was unable to walk any more.  This time I had made the commitment that death would break.

Death is a robber of future plans. Death comes at the worst time and steals our dreams and intentions. Death is certainly cruel but fair in that it hurts everyone it leaves behind.

I’d like to say that I learned not to put off the important matters in life. I wish I could say that I’ve made the memories, fulfilled the promises and lived the dreams I have with my loved ones. I haven’t. Like most every person I know I am leaving undone the simple things like saying I love you, taking my nieces and nephews fishing, writing that special note to someone I know I hurt in the past but have been too stubborn to ask forgiveness.  Today would truly be the time to do those things.

Someday a little boy or girl is going to hurt because I am gone. Will I at least leave them with a completed promise, dream or desire?  There is a song we used to sing in the old country church that reminds us of the suddenness of goodbye.

Tomorrow may mean goodbye
We never, know when or why
God calls us away, when life seems so gay
Our bodies in dust to lie

Tomorrow our souls may sigh
For beauty we let slip by
Oh, listen to me today
Fall down on your knees and pray


Cause tomorrow,
May mean goodbye
–J.B. Coats

Now that I am a man, death’s tragedy hurts just as much as it did when I was a boy.  I have learned that there is a tomorrow where the “saved and the blessed”  join a heavenly family, united together where death will never part.  My decision is to live my life making certain that I’ll be happy on that day.

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (1 John 2:28).

Even as a lad I was keenly aware that death came unexpected and too soon. My grandpa died when I was only nine years old. Mr. Bowdie, a close family friend died just a few days before my seventh birthday.  Both of these deaths profoundly affected me.

When Mr. Bowdie died we were supposed to spend the weekend fishing just like the week before. I had caught my first fish ever.  It was almost a miracle that anyone could catch a fish that day. Mr. Bowdie had a worn-out boat and motor. My dad stuck a cane pole in my hand while he and Mr. Bowdie wrestled with the old Evinrude. The boat was half in the water half on the bank making more noise than any fish would brave being around. Somehow a huge old carpe happened to eat the tomato worm on my hook.  I pulled him in with shouts of joy and pride over my first trophy.

Mister Bowdie laughed and jumped up and down more than I did. He promised that the next weekend we would have the motor fixed and we would learn what it was like to catch a whole boatload of fish, together. I couldn’t sleep all week thinking about what Mr. Bowdie promised.

When the phone rang, I was laying on the floor near dad’s chair watching “Gunsmoke”.  I could tell from dad’s hushed tones that something was wrong.  When he told us that Mr. Bowdie was dead my whole world went dark. I could feel the tightness and lump in my throat. My tears poured uncontrolled down my cheeks.  My heart broke for the first time, leaving the sad promise of many more to come.

I knew there would be no more sitting in the boat with Mr. Bowdie. No more watching him saucer his coffee no more digging in his huge tool box. Mister Bowdie was gone and we would never have those special times together again.  Anything we planned to do could never be done because death stole our future.

Fast forward a few years and my world would be so different. My parents divorced. My sister and I moved to Illinois with our mom.  We lived in a few rooms above our landlord. They had a phone and we did not.  We had to come downstairs if we ever got a call.  Usually calls only came on birthdays and Christmas. Phone calls from Texas were even fewer and farther between.  I treasured every talk with my dad. My feet didn’t even touch the treads as I leaped down the stairs to the lower floor apartment. But when I came to the phone I heard the same voice that announced death once before. Dad told us how, “Grandpa had been very sick and just wasn’t strong enough to recover from pneumonia.”  I could feel that familiar ripping of my heart, the heavy cloud of darkness overshadowed me and I wanted to hide from what Dad was saying.

This time the pain was a little different. At nine years old, I had time to make plans to go to Dickens, Texas and help Granny and Grandpa. I even dreamed about shining his shoes and taking him squirrel hunting.  I had told Grandpa in the summer that I would come help him take care of Granny who was unable to walk any more.  This time I had made the promise that death would break.

Death is a robber of future plans. Death comes at the worst time and steals our dreams and intentions. Death is certainly cruel but fair in that it hurts everyone it leaves behind.

I’d like to say that I learned not to put off the important matters in life. I wish I could say that I’ve made the memories, fulfilled the promises and lived the dreams I have with my loved ones. But I haven’t. I am like most every person I know I am leaving undone the simple things like saying I love you, taking my nieces and nephews fishing, writing that special note to someone I know I hurt in the past but have been too stubborn to ask forgiveness.  Today would truly be the time to do those things.

Someday a little boy or girl is going to hurt because I am gone. Will I at least finish with a completed promise, dream or desire?  There is a song we used to sing in the old country church that reminds us of the suddenness of goodbye.

Tomorrow may mean goodbye
We never, know when or why
God calls us away, when life seems so gay
Our bodies in dust to lie

Tomorrow our souls may sigh
For beauty we let slip by
Oh, listen to me today
Fall down on your knees and pray
Cause tomorrow,
May mean goodbye
–J.B. Coats

Now that I am a man, death’s tragedy hurts just as much as it did when I was a boy.  However, I’ve learned that there is a tomorrow where to “saved and the blest” will join a heavenly family, united together where death will never part.  I’ve decided to live my life making certain that I’ll be happy on that day.

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (1Jn 2:28).

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4 Comments on “Tomorrow May Mean Goodbye”

  1. Darla Moore Says:

    I remember my first encounter with death and coming to terms with the reality that it happens to everyone. Now that I have a young son and see him coming to the same realization, I am trying to give him the hope I have for an afterlife, to prepare him for his first real loss. As an older mom, I have suffered some losses, but I still remember how it feels to be a child faced with that reality.

  2. Wes Says:

    I recall my mother and aunt singing this around the time my grandfather passed away. The melody and words seemed a challenge to my young heart. Imagine as I move the clock and calendar forward today I find all previous generations gone and now have found my young wife has joined them on the other shore. Tonight my heart and head join in sharing Tomorrow May Mean Goodbye. However, it can also mean Welcome Home.

    • Joe Chase Says:

      I pray God’s comfort will help you in your sorrow.

      In Him,

      Joe

      • Wes Says:

        I am consoled with the hope of Eternity and a wonderous reunion. Too much of life left to try to live on yesterdays alone. They (yesterdays) are sweet memories of life being loved and loving. Not much has really changed thanks to a Loving Heavenly Father who plants fresh seeds of life in my heart and waters them with tears of both sorrow and joy.


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