You have so much to give, and receive

A short story titled ‘A Dead Man’s Dream’ by Ambrose Bierce is the story of Peyton Farquhar who is condemned to death by hanging from ‘Owl Creek Bridge’. A film based on the story titled ‘An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge’ ran to packed cinema halls in the sixties.


Farquhar in his mid-thirties is standing on a railroad bridge in Alabama. Six military men prepare for him to be hanged from the bridge. Farquhar begins to think of his wife and children. An escape plan flashes through his mind and a thought occurred to him “throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, take to the woods and get away home.” 

When the soldiers hit the anvil, the rope breaks. Farquhar falls into the water with his hands and legs tied. He suddenly realises his senses and begins to feel and see thick blades of grass and bugs on the leaves as he wades downstream. He realises he is alive.  He manages to set his hands and legs free and swims across to a nearby forest. After miles of running and suffering many bruises, he finally reaches his home to meet his young wife and children and live a renewed life of love and service.

The film shocks you. It was only a dream for Farquhar before he could be hanged. He actually died by hanging. There are a lot of opportunities for us to do good things for others and make life meaningful. But we may probably be evading those opportunities and doing evil instead.

Most religions speak of a final judgement and final reward by God over the kind of life we live here on earth. Christianity too does. Saint Peter reminds us, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied Grace” (I Peter 4:10). Saint John writes: “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (I John 3:17-18).

Dr Kubler-Ross of the University of Chicago who worked tirelessly with the terminally ill recounts in her book ‘Death and Dying’ the feelings of patients who look back on their life when they are about to die; “They saw in the final analysis that only two things matter. The service you render others and love. All those things we think are important, like fame, money, prestige and power are insignificant.”

 In the evening of our life, our joys can be measured not by how much we got, but by how much we have given, not by how much we have won, but by how much we have done, not by how much we have saved, but by how much we have sacrificed, not by how much we have been honoured, but by how much we have served others.

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