There is nothing else quite so pathetic as the post-mortem kindness so often manifested by people who thought they had no time to be kind to their loved ones while they were living.
Many a man has piled more flowers on the coffin of wife or mother than he ever gave her during her lifetime. I have known men who, because of a sense of remorse, spent more money on their mother's funeral than they spent on all the presents they ever gave her while she was living.
The Youth's Companion tells of a young girl, beautiful, gay, full of spirits and vigor who was married and had four children. Later, the husband died penniless and the mother made the most heroic efforts to educate her children. She taught school, sewed, painted, did all sorts of things to earn money to send the girls to boarding school, and the boys to college.
When the girls came home, pretty, refined, intelligent, educated, and the strong young men, blessed with all the new ideas of their time, the mother was a worn-out, faded old woman. The children went their own way, had their own homes, their own interests, and the poor mother was neglected. Things went along in this way for several years until finally she was attacked with serious brain trouble, aggravated, no doubt, by disappointment, a sense of loneliness and a lack of appreciation from her children which she had always fancied she would get in her old age.
The shock woke them to a consciousness of their neglect. They all rushed to her assistance in her last hours, and, in an agony of grief, hung over her as she lay unconscious. One son, holding her in his arms, said to her, "You have been such a good mother to us." The mother's face showed a little color. Once more she opened her eyes and whispered, "You never said so before, John," then the light died out of her eyes and she was gone, leaving her children, sobbing, conscience stricken. They piled flowers high on her coffin and gave her a costly funeral.
Love does not neglect the poor old mother until the last illness, and then shower her with luxuries she cannot enjoy. It helps her when a little thoughtful attention and kindness mean a great deal to her. Love writes frequent letters to the mother left behind in the old home. It does not send a little hurried note, after weeks and months of silence, telling how busy one has been, so driven with affairs that one has not had time to write. Love finds a way; it always finds time to do kind things.
The busy man of the world would claim that he is too busy to help another, but when he falls in love with a beautiful girl he finds time to bestow favors on her, time to visit her, time to write her. Real love would find time to see the poor old mother, to make her happy, to send her flowers, to send her candy, to remind her constantly of the love that belongs to her.
There is a certain kind of giving which cannot be postponed. You must give the kind word, do the helpful deed as you go along or you lose your chance, and the blessing that goes with it.
There is also a certain amount of giving of ourselves which must be done each day. If we postpone it until to-morrow the opportunity of to-day will be lost, because to-morrow will bring its own cause for our gifts; and we cannot crowd to-day into to-morrow.
When the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, sweet, fresh manna fell every day to supply their needs. They were commanded not to save any of it for next day, because they were assured it would not keep, and that a sufficient amount would fall for each day's need. But in spite of this assurance they doubted and tried to hoard some for next day, but their hoarding was useless, for the manna always spoiled.
Most of our daily personal gifts are like this manna of the Israelites. They will not keep. If they are not used as occasion demands they are lost. There are gifts of cheerfulness, of smiles, gifts of kindness, gifts of consideration, expressions of appreciation, gifts of praise, gifts of thanksgiving, which must go out every day as we go along, for we shall never go this way again. We never make back tracks on the life path. Every step is onward, and if we do not scatter our love seeds as we go along, the path behind us will be so much the more barren for the lives which shall follow.
The excuse so common among busy people for every neglect or omission, "I haven't time," is no excuse at all for letting the manna of life spoil.
You can no more postpone your daily giving than you can postpone your breathing. If you postpone your gifts of kindly words to the servants, to the newsboy, to the conductor on the train, to employees, to your associates and especially to those who are in trouble, who have fallen by the way, those who need your help; if you do not fling out these gifts, these blessings, as you go along, they will be lost forever.
The following paragraph from "The Young Woman" has a personal application for most of us - men and women:
"'I sometimes think we women nowadays are in danger of being too busy to be really useful/ said an old lady, thoughtfully. 'We hear so much about making every minute count, and always having some work or course of study for spare hours, and having our activities all synchronized, that there is no place left for small wayside kindnesses. We go to see the sick neighbor and relieve the poor neighbor; but for the common every-day neighbor who has not fallen by the way, so far as we can see, we haven't a minute to spare. But everybody who needs a cupful of cold water isn't calling the fact out to the world, and there are a great many little pauses by the way that are no waste of time. The old-fashioned exchange of garden flowers over the back fence and a friendly chat about domestic matters helped to brighten weary days and brought more cheer than many a sermon. We ought not to be too busy to inquire for the girl away at school or to be interested in the letter from the boy at sea or "over there." It is a comfort to the mother's lonely heart to feel that somebody else cares for that which means so much to her. Especially we ought not to be too busy to give and receive little kindnesses in our home.' May no one be able to say of us that we are too busy to be kind."