What will be my last act in life — the one thing someone who will be left behind, still living, could see me do and inspire him or her to want to do so?
I wish I had a concrete answer to this question. I was prompted to start thinking about it by a woman I had admired and whose kindness and generosity I appreciated in her last few days of life. It has occupied a central part of my thought process recently.
Beth heard me talk with a cashier at one of the OfficeMax stores in Boise. She immediately recognized my “Wyoming accent” and said, “You are the one I listen to on the radio? I love listening to you and what you say.” We talked briefly and l left to check something else I needed from the store.
Then I heard, “Vincent” from behind. It was Beth with her hand stretched and her fist closed. All she said was, “This is for the children you are helping in Kenya.” I had been given money, randomly, for Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope (CHHH), the organization I founded to raise high school tuition and fees for needy children in Kenya.
Before I left the store, I asked for her contact information, which she gladly scribbled on a piece of paper. In most cases, the instant giving is a one-time deal. What sets Beth apart, however, was that she continued giving regularly from that moment. She searched the Internet and learned more about the organization, found its contact information and started mailing checks.
Over the years, we talked over the phone or exchanged emails. Beth always wanted to find ways she could help more. She talked to several of her friends about meeting at her house to learn what I was doing, only to find that they were already supporters of CHHH causes and regulars contributors.
After arriving back in America on Aug. 15, 2015, from a trip to Kenya, I found a check from my friend, Beth, and wrote an email thanking her for the continued support. She didn’t reply. A few days later, I called her home and her husband picked up the telephone and told me the bad news — Beth’s cancer had returned and was advanced — “It is just a matter of days, Vincent” he said. Beth, a vibrant lady, had never disclosed that she had been a cancer survivor.
When he handed the phone to Beth, she thought there was no need for me to go see her. It was on a Saturday. I went home, but about 7 p.m. I felt the need to go back to my office — something I have been unable to understand to this day. I checked the phone and there was Beth’s message asking me to go and pray with her. I was at their house the next morning.
We talked about life: Beth, her husband and I. Where they were born, how they met, when they moved to Boise, all about their children and what they had done for a living before retirement. I expressed my appreciation for her initiative in talking to me and choosing to support CHHH.
I told Beth that I pray that I have the same spirit of helping others even in my most vulnerable moment. Then I handed her a customized key holder I had made for her in Kenya. On Sept. 9, a beautiful soul moved to another form of life, that teaches us in absentia.
I left the house wondering, “What will be my last act in life?”
The reality of the matter is, at our last moment, when we are on our deathbed, chances are that we cannot do something we have never done or thought of doing. In our most fragile moment, whatever we can think about or do is most likely something we have thought or done repeatedly in our lives. Doing good with our lives up until that final moment ensures that our last act will be a tribute to how we lived.
So what will be your last act?
Vincent Muli Kituku is an author and speaker for business organizations, schools and Christian groups. He is the founder of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope and Caring Hearts High School, a vulnerable girls’ boarding school in Kenya. Contact him at (208) 376-8724 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.