With a title like this one, you might expect this to be a reflection by someone who has just survived a near-death experience. It could be one who escaped from a nasty car accident or a near-miss airplane landing. Lucky to be alive sounds like the relieved words of someone who stood in front of death’s door and turned around to walk away. “Praise the Lord,” we expect to hear them mutter.
But my reflections have nothing of the drama suggested in the first paragraph. I have not had a near-death experience. I have certainly thought about dying and being dead, as I suppose is natural for anyone my age. I have fortunately never been in a nasty car accident. I have had some scary enough (for me) plane takeoffs and landings, but nothing that was disastrous. So I guess I have lived a fairly eventful, normal---maybe---boring life.
That does not mean I cannot feel lucky to be alive. I do feel lucky. Let me elaborate. I have often quipped that there was no committee meeting scheduled when I was conceived. I have no memory of my parents asking if I wanted to be born. We are all conceived and born without a chance to vote on it! At that point of my birth, I would not know whether I was lucky or unlucky to be alive. Obviously, I have no memory of that event or day.
People nurtured me. My parents did the best they could---and it was pretty good. I grew, got educated and developed my own “person.” At some point we begin to realize we are alive and, finally, on our own. We are tracking our way through life. Most of us will make it to adulthood and beyond. Few are unlucky enough to die young and virtually all of us decide against suicide. So we pile up the days and the years.
We may not have much of a sense, however, that we are lucky to be alive. That requires some awareness and reflection. Sometimes that never happens until our lives come under some threat. What I decided to do---a long time ago now---was to try to live with an awareness of how lucky I am to be alive. I did not want to wait until I was in trouble or threatened with some kind of disaster to begin appreciating life.
For me this was a spiritual move. There are many ways to define spirituality. A couple important aspects of my definition are that spirituality is experiential---that is to say, it is experience and not primarily doctrine of some sort. I am not against doctrine. I have doctrines, too. But doctrines don’t live and breathe. They don’t vibrate with life. The Spirit in me lives and breathes through me. It vibrates in and through my life. It gives me a quality of vibrancy that I would not otherwise have.
The second quality of spirituality for me is awareness. I am not sure how I can have some sense of being spiritual if I am not aware. I know how easy it is to sleepwalk through life. It amazes me how days can pass into weeks and I can be relatively unaware. Oh, I can be aware that I am hungry and, then, eat. But I am talking about a deeper awareness.
I want an awareness of the fact that I am alive. I want to have some sense of that deeper purpose calling me to some significance in life. I want to be aware of that deep Center within me that keeps me centered and not living some crazy, wacky life. I want to be so aware of life that I don’t wake up one day to realize I am old and not sure how I got here. I want each day to count instead of simply being checked off.
I want to be spiritual enough to go into the wonderful park system near my house and see the deer that are just inside the woods. On a recent run in the park, I saw four. They were young. I am sure if I were unaware, I would have missed them. It was no big deal. But it added a quality to my run. It made me less egocentric. I realize again that I share this world. It is not “my world.” It is God’s world and I am lucky to be alive and sharing it.
If I am aware on my runs, I recognize the seasons as they come and go. My trip in the park is magical. Sometimes it is the fall season and the leaves paint a colorful picture for me. Spring reverses the scene. Trees bud and the green, young leaves begin to appear. I hope I never go for a run and not feel lucky to be alive.
I do feel lucky to be alive. But then I go a little deeper. There may be luck involved. But because the Holy One is the center of my belief-system, I recognize it is more than luck. I do think there is a huge element of grace. I am actually a gift of God to the world! That is both a funny and sobering thought---to be a gift to the world! You are, too, you know!
If I am a gift to the world, I want to experience all that is possible. And I want to be as aware as possible. If I can manage both, then I will be as spiritual as possible. If I am spiritual, then I am authentically thankful. I can say Gracias for the grace. The good news: my luck may run out; but grace is forever. Gracias