Unfinished Business: Reflections by Leo Watt

Visitors to Spain usually travel to Barcelona, where there is a unique unfinished piece of remarkable architecture.  It is La Sagrada Familia – the work of Antoni Gaudi, who was born in 1852.

He had a strong religious faith and studied many subjects, especially architecture.  He eventually built several famous buildings, and from 1915 he worked tirelessly to create something majestic but different, something that would draw people’s eyes to the heavens.  After seeing less than a quarter of it built, in 1926, he was knocked down by a tram and died in hospital three days later.   He left behind his dream but no plans or blueprints for others to follow.  Everything had been in his head, and he never lived to see his masterpiece finished.

Since then, other architects and artists have worked on the basilica as they hope it might be completed by 2026.   Even though much has to be achieved, it remains a World Heritage Site.

We all have unfinished business

In a sense, most of us ordinary folk are going to have unfinished business.  It’s a fact of life that we just have to accept, the price of being human beings with a limited life span.  If we knew, perhaps, that we had a definite time or date for our death, then we might be able to plan everything so that in the end, we could say: ” That’s it.  I’ve done what I wanted to do in life.  I finished this or that project.  I’ve made peace with everyone.  I’m ready to go.”

There are people who get this opportunity, but not many. 

I think of my Dad, who lived to the grand old age of 95 after a good life as a husband, father, grandfather, lifesaver, factory worker…yet lived simply, poor but happy.  He was ready to go when pneumonia came to take him away.

I think of grieving parents whose child did not have a chance to really live at all because of stillbirth or cot death, accident, or illness.

I think of the statistics in our newspapers of the number of people killed suddenly on our roads.  So much unfinished business, so much they could have achieved, so much love they could have given or received.

Life isn’t always fair.  Sometimes we never get a chance to achieve what we would like.

But does it matter?  Is it really that important?

You’re in good company

If we feel down about our own worth and that we don’t seem to be achieving anything worthwhile in life, then history shows us that we are in good company.

Think of the musical treasures left by Mozart, who died before completing his D minor Requiem or Schubert with his unfinished Symphony no.8 in B min.

For forty years, poor old Moses had the job of leading the Israelite tribe to the Promised Land, but he never set foot on it.  He could only climb to the top of Pisgah near the Jordan river and look over the land that his people would cultivate and fight over for centuries.

Jesus of Nazareth died around the age of 33; one minute, the people proclaimed him as a king; the next minute, they called out for him to be crucified.  He had so much to give the world, so much wisdom to share and love to pour out.  But as he died, he could say: “It is finished.”   Some people thought he was finished, but he proved them wrong.   His work was done, and others would carry on after him.

It is not important to finish the race.  What matters is that we begin and do what we can in the time that we have. Make the most of every minute.   Take the good with the bad that life throws us.  We don’t have to make the headlines or become a celebrity.  We don’t need statues or monuments built in our honour.   The fact that we have lived and tried to live well is all that matters.  Even though we seem to have made little impact on the universe, we have left a footprint and something of ourselves.

In one of my songs, “Because of you” I’ve tried to express what I believe to be an encouraging and inspiring belief:

            May you share your talents and your time,

            May you be hope to those in need.

            May you be a witness to a God who cares,

            May the world be a better place because of you.

            May you leave behind a memory,

            May they know you have not lived in vain.

            May your worth be measured by the depth of love,

            May the world be a better place because of you.

Always look forward

There was a song called “Unfinished business” released in 2008 by the UK band, White Lies, and it had an interesting line:

            “The sand in the hourglass is running low.”

White Lies, 2008

As we grow older, the image means a lot to us, but it should not make us feel depressed or negative.  The secret is not to look back but to look forwards.

If we look back, we think of all the missed opportunities we had in life, things we could have done, should have done but failed to do, mistakes we made, and poor decisions and choices.   Living in the past can be our undoing and achieves nothing.

We have to live in the now

The past is gone.  All we have is the present to start again, begin anew.   We are not in this world to “have” or to “achieve”.  We are here just to “be” and make the most of what our genes and personality have given us.  If we are people of faith, whatever religion, we have the consolation of knowing that we are “OK”, we are loved by Someone, a power greater than ourselves, who knows our inmost thoughts, overlooks our failings and who has said :

            I have called you by your name, you are mine

            …you are precious in my eyes.

            Do not be afraid I am with you…

            I will never forget you.

            See, I have branded you on the palms of my hands…

            I will never forget you.  

(Isaiah chapters 43 and 49)


1 comment(s)

Well, stone the crows and starve the lizards, I hear you saying ! I have just discovered that U2 have a blog ! I could not resist commenting on what appears to be your most recent post, a little over a month ago. I would like to think that since you got my e-mail yesterday, a voice outta the Ether, you are reading my blog and wondering whether or not you should reply. I hope you have a signal that alerts you to the fact that I am, hic et nunc, following up my recent discovery of what you have been doing with your life since last we saw each other – I imagine at the time of my Ordination in 1961. You must be wondering what’s eating the Chaff . . . From what I have been reading, I can see how far apart we are, beyond the 18,000 clicks that separate us. The word “Antipodes” comes to mind, geographically, culturally and above all theologically . . . Even if I never hear a word from you, I want to congratulate you on the life you have chosen to live and the contribution you have made to the lives of so many people. You always were The Quiet Man, in contrast with the subject of “De ore Leonis”. Enjoy the Autumn of your years, Leo. I am enjoying mine to the full, here in my secondary home On Zeee Beeech in Bidart, between Biarritz and St Jean de Luz, in the Basque Country. I’m under lockdown, after four months of annual vacation here (been doing it since my retirement, four years before yours) and cannot return to my home in L’Isle-Adam, between Paris and Beauvais, where I have lived for the last 42 years, until further notice. Pax et bonum, Brother.

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