The grass wither, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD blows on it: surely the people is grass. The grass wither, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. — Isaiah 40:7-8
R.I.P. Dick Clark. Just a tad before my time, but there’s no denying his role in bringing rock n’ roll (before it became “rock and roll” then just plain “rock”) to the masses. It’s hard to imagine true greats like Clark and the dying Levon Helm (drummer and lead singer for The Band), and Robin Gibb (of Bee Gees fame) not being around anymore; you think about the rich lives they’ve lived and the music and memories they’ve created over multiple decades with millions of fans worldwide. But it’s a reminder that death is the great equalizer – whether you’re rich or poor, famous or anonymous, human, animal, or plant, liberal or conservative, good or evil, surrounded by a large circle of friends and family or lonely, our time on this earth is finite.
There was a time when I worried about death a lot. Maybe it was back when I was young enough to think there were still great things to accomplish, and I didn’t want to get cheated out of anything. I don’t worry about that so much anymore. I guess what I do think about – at least when it comes to death – is hoping that whenever my time comes, it comes quickly. Were instead it’s a long, drawn-out illness, I pray I will have the strength and faith to face it with humility, dignity, and not a little humor; after all, who am I to think I deserve being spared a death different from someone who dies of starvation, or torture, or war wounds, or any number of maladies or afflictions suffered by humans since our time on earth began. I mean, I’m nobody special.
There was a time when I thought the best thing was to die without any regrets. How foolish! Hell, when my time comes – even if it is tomorrow – I’m going to die with a lot of regrets. Regrets about time I’ve wasted doing useless crap, or the way I’ve treated people I’ve cared for, or not being equal to the discipline required of the priestly calling I know God called me to, or at not being a monastic, or a better husband, friend, or lover, or being too competitive and hard on myself. I’ve got a lot of regrets, and nothing will stop me from taking them to the grave with me. Which is fine: to have regrets is to be human.
That being said, whenever my time comes, I hope I’ll look back on it as a life that was blessed – blessed with a wonderful set of parents who passed down life lessons and an example I can never, ever repay them for. Blessed for having a wonderful wife and extended family, and a set of friends who are never as far away in thought as they are in miles. Blessed to live in a country where I have been able to work, make good money, travel, have food on my table, and clean water out of a faucet at just the turn of a knob. Blessed I’ve shared my living space with wonderful pets whom I hope I will see again in the next life. Blessed to have seen thunderstorms, trees, the grasses of lovely manicured fairways, rivers (especially the Mississippi), and salt water oceans, harbors, and inlets. Blessed to have been given a love and an ear for music and the need to have my daily life surrounded with life music in various forms. Blessed to have never been hungry, thirsty, abused, persecuted for my beliefs, or ever feeling unloved. No question, I’ve been truly lucky, definitely more fortunate than most.
Most importantly, I have my faith and religion that I don’t know what I would do without. I only wish I could be as devoted and faithful a disciple of Christ that God has called me to be.
Warren Zevon once sang, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, and I used to think that was a pretty darned good motto. Nowadays, as much as I think all my best days are long since behind me, and I’m living a life in a kind of self-imposed, burned-out exile where life and my calling can’t hurt me anymore, the fact is, there will come a time (and probably not that far away in the future) when I look upon these Arizona years as a very good time filled with steady work, good pay, and daiquiris on a brightly-colored back patio with a swimming pool and palm trees swaying in a hot summer breeze. One can definitely do a lot worse.
You can’t worry about what is to come. Live every day as if it were to be your last, treating others as you would like to be treated yourself, and seeking God in all and of all. You do that, and it’ll be hard not to live a life worth living.
Like George Harrison once sang, “be here now”.