Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Death: Life’s Curtain Call

In theory we all know that death is inevitable.  When I type those words, I know the truth of them.  I know them intellectually.  This kind of intellectual knowledge has little affective effect.  I can type those words without any feelings.  It is as if the truth of that knowledge has no immediate effect.  But that does not change the fact.           

At some point the inevitability of death begins to impinge on our own lives.  Death no longer is merely an intellectual idea.  It is no longer merely a possibility.  It becomes reality.  Often it takes on an affective element that moves us to feel things.  It affects us---sometimes mightily.           

Certainly at my age I think about death more than I did when I was in my teens or twenties.  Appropriately most folks in that age range should not be troubled with concerns about death.  But they should not totally ignore it.  The inevitability of death should help us learn to live life with some useful purpose and quest for meaning in our lives.  Because we are likely to live a long time does not mean we should waste most of life on things that don’t matter.           

Things can change.  Things do change.  I remember reading someone quite some time ago who commented that change is the price by which the future invades our lives.  He was correct.  Death is ultimately a change---a radical change for us.  We should not dwell on it, but neither should be dismiss it.  Change happens and sometimes unexpectedly and without warning.           

And so it does.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I was informed that a very good friend of mine had died.  I know that death is inevitable, but this one was not expected.  It is easy to say that he was old enough to die.  So am I!  Because he was not in his teens or twenties, he obviously was more likely to go before folks in those early years.  When I heard the news, I had to begin dealing with the reality that the plans we had been making to see each other had just radically changed.           

When I started to process the news, these are the words I wrote.  “When death becomes personal, we realize how precious and fragile life is.  Be aware, be thankful.  Value your gift of life and make it count.”  I wrote these words for myself and, no doubt, for others who read the stuff that I write.  Many of my readers are younger folks.  I hope they read these words and begin to take them to heart.           

“When death becomes personal…”  That is what happened to me today.  Death was not an intellectual inevitability.  Death assumed and consumed a friend of mine.  Death took a name today.  Death erased someone from my life.  Frequently, we use the phrase, “that’s life.”  I guess today that phrase was re-phrased for me.  Death became personal.  It is not the first time nor will it be the last time.             

“When death becomes personal, we realize how precious and fragile life is.”  There is a deep truth in the second half of that sentence.  I do think life is both precious and fragile.  But too many of my days I live in such a way that I pay no attention to that fact.  Life is a gift.  It is precious.  There is no one like me.  I am precious…and so are you.  But the precious gift that I am is also fragile.  “Handle with care” is still a good motto!           

“When death becomes personal, we realize how precious and fragile life is.  Be aware, be thankful.”  When I wrote those next two phrases, that is how I knew I could respond to the life of my deceased friend and my own yet-to-be-lived days.  Be aware.  I don’t know how else to come to value how precious I am and you are without being aware.  If I am aware, then I have a chance---a chance to live to the very depths of my being.  And secondly, I want to live thankfully.  Thanksgiving is not just some holiday in November with turkey.           

If I can’t be aware and thankful, then I am the turkey!  If life is a gift, then I want to be cognizant of its beauty and we thankful.  If I can manage that every day, then I am on my way to a spirit-filled life.          

This is my way to “value your gift of life and make it count.”  Make my life count is both the goal and the process of living.  I make my life count if it is lived for some good and noble purpose.  It counts if I make a difference, instead of making a mess.  I make my life count one day at a time.  The numbers will add up.           

When my own death brings down the curtain, I hope the sum total of my life is significant.  Thanks to my friend, I am both reminded and inspired to keep making each day count.

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