Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher will retire from his 20-year tenure at the end of this academic year. In his last chapel, rounding out Belmont’s 2021 Homecoming week, Fisher took the opportunity to look back and reflect on “What Really Matters” in life.
With an introduction from Belmont Board of Trustees Chair Marty Dickens and musical performances from alumnus Dwan Hill & Co., Fisher began his presentation with background on his and his wife Judy’s 2009 book “Life is a Gift,” in which the two conducted in-depth interviews with more than 100 terminally ill patients of Alive Hospice in Nashville.
The couple’s conversations with patients like 5-year-old Maddie or the 98-year-old man who spent his last weeks learning Hungarian followed a standard question-and-answer formula: What are you most proud of? What has been your greatest joy? What has been your greatest disappointment? What do you regret? What comes next for you? If you could give one message to the world, what would it be?
A few common themes emerged that have stuck with Fisher as things that are truly important in life: mainly relationships with God and relationships with other people.
“Your family is what really matters. When you’re 5, you know it. When you’re 102, you know it. So many people get lost along the way. But, think about it. What really matters to you in life?” Fisher proposed. “Call your family today and tell them how much you love them. Invest your time and energy into those relationships. We heard it over and over and over.”
Other common themes focused on joy, forgiveness, reconciliation and being in touch with God. One patient who had suffered a difficult life told the Fishers she had no regrets because without the tribulations she faced, she wouldn’t have come to know the God of her salvation. And because she had known Him, she was full of hope and full of joy.
The patients talked a lot about God – the role he had played and the difference he made in their lives. The times when they were in step with God, their life prospered and happiness was there. In the times they strayed, it was tougher. Fisher reminded the listeners that it’s never too late for them to change the road they are on. For some patients, it was too late, but for many, there were great efforts made to ask for forgiveness from people in their lives and they received it.
“For most of you, your life has just begun, and you’re not thinking about death and you shouldn’t be thinking about death, except to know that you are mortal and to know that if you can make the right decisions now, you’re going to have a life of great joy,” Fisher said as he concluded.
“Don’t wait until you’re on the front porch of eternity to consider how you should live today. Remember, you’ve been given a gift of life, and also understand that it is a gift. Be thankful for it, praise God’s name and live your life with joy. Celebrate that life and make a joyful noise. Within practice hours.”
A recording of the service is available on Belmont’s Youtube channel.