March 4, 2012

Prayers go out to the folks in Indiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Georgia who have lost loved ones and/or seen their lives completely uprooted as a result of the severe weather this past week. This time of year there’s just no getting around the fact that people are going to be killed by tornadoes; the only question is when, where, and how many lives are to be lost. It’s a fact of life in the Great Plains and Midwest this time of year, there is just no getting around it. Some people have a hard time accepting death in these kinds of circumstances, I’m not one of them.

As long as I can remember, death as a concept and reality has never been far from my thoughts. Even when I was very young, I had a keen sense of just how precious life is, and how quickly it can be taken away. Perhaps it springs from the time we found a baby bird that had either fallen out of its nest or had been abandoned by its mother; I remember keenly trying to nurse it to health by feeding it in some way or another, I can’t remember how many days it was. At any rate, there came a time when you could tell it was suffering and wasn’t going to make it, and I took it out back and put it out of its misery. Whether the result of that event or not, I’ve always felt a keen sense of just how fine the line between life and death is, how quickly life can be taken away, and how cheap life has become in this day and age. And I’ve always had a sense deep within that when my time comes, I would die alone.

I don’t want to make this sound morbid, because it’s not meant in that kind of way. We’d all love to think that when our time comes, we will go gently and serenely, surrounded by loved ones bidding us farewell. But that’s just, to quote Old Man Potter, sentimental hogwash. Death is often an untidy business, seldom pretty, and more often than than not, an unwelcome intrusion and interruption into the lives of those who would not rather deal with the fact that, from the moment we are born the clock is ticking and that we are all destined to die in one way or another.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just wired differently, but death as a concept or reality is never, and never has been, far from my thoughts. Let me tell you about something that happened shortly after the New Year was rung in for 2012. I was standing out on the back patio listening to the fireworks going off all around our house. The pineapple lights shone brightly and happily above, and the Johnny Walker Red I was drinking provided warmth against the chilly night air. I was just getting ready to call it a night when, out of the blue, a feeling of dread washed over me, and I couldn’t help but think that there were people who were celebrating the New Year at that very same time not knowing this would be their last New Year, and that they would be dead in just a few months’ time because of tornadoes. It was such an strange and odd feeling that washed over me, I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling that way or where that feeling came from. It lasted a good minute or two, and I have to admit it shook me enough that I poured myself a double before calling it a night and heading to bed.

Heralding from New England, I know the worst most folks are going to see there are snowstorms in the winter and a severe thunderstorm or two in the summer. Here in the Valley of the Sun, the monsoon season provides its share of severe thunderstorm activity, but tornadoes are quite rare – the biggest threat we have out here is the heat during the summer season. When we lived in Kentucky, you knew all about tornado season – especially when March rolled around and you got those queasy, humid days a little earlier than seemed normal when the air just had that odd feeling about it, and you paid close attention to the weather radio.

I guess the whole point of this post is to say just how fragile life is, and just how tenuous our hold on life is. It doesn’t have to be a tornado, it can be anything, at any time. It’s just natural that we live our lives making plans for the week, the month, the year, and long after that, never thinking about the fact we may not live to see any of it. But I think we do well to live each and every day as a precious gift from God, being aware it can all be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. And maybe that’s a lesson we can take from the death and destruction of the past few days; while we can’t restore the lives of those who have died, we can help to rebuild the lives of those who have survived. Perhaps in doing so, hopefully we recognize our own mortality and the importance of living each day we have been given to the fullest.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:46 | Comments Off on Life And Death
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