This past week I was made aware three times of the presence of death, and how near it can be. First was the death of the father of a friend of mine. My friend's father had lived a full life, had been blessed by children and grandchildren who loved him. He made a graceful exit from this earth, surrounded by the people he loved. In a perfect world, that is how it should be, even though it is still difficult on the loved ones left behind. I think a person is fortunate if they can have a good life and a dignified death. That in itself is a blessing.
The second awareness of the presence of death was the lovely Natasha Richardson. That is a death that should not have happened. She was in the full bloom of life, with a husband, two children, a full life with so much to look forward to, and so much yet to give. A death like that doesn't make any sense to me. It simply should not have happened.
The third awareness I had of death was the child of a friend of mine. My friend's child was born with a congenital heart defect, and had not been expected to live past the age of two. He lived to be almost five, and his parents consider the extra three years they had with him a blessing. That's a death that should not have happened either. But when you really think about it, most deaths seem senseless. It's such an arbitrary thing. One day you're enjoying yourself on the ski slopes, the next day you're gone. Every day you leave your home in the morning, put the keys in the ignition of your car and pull out of the driveway, well, that could be your last. Somewhere in the backs of our minds, that nagging thought is always there.
"It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live." ... Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
It's very true. We can only live our day to day lives as best we can. We work, we play, we sleep, we interact with other people. But do we appreciate that one day it will all be gone? Do we value the minutes and hours that have been given to us as the ultimate gift? I think most of us just take it all for granted -- until we see how capricious it is and how quickly it can all be taken away.
I do some of my best thinking in the shower (don't we all?) and the other day I was thinking about some of the people I have loved whom I have lost, and at the same time I thought about some of the people I have lost who have loved me. These are the things we should never take for granted. We should leap out of bed every day and welcome the new day -- one more beautiful day to savor everything in life. It can all be taken away in a heartbeat.