When Death Reminds Me to Live
Tuesday, April 16, 2013Tweet
It's been a rough couple of days here.
Saturday night, Mike had to deal with a crisis situation that lasted until the early hours of the morning. On Sunday morning, while he was still trying to take care of the people involved, we got news that our hall housekeeper had died. We'd known for several months that she'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor, but her prognosis as of just a few days ago was good, that it shouldn't interfere with her life anytime soon. So her death was genuinely unexpected.
She was more than a housekeeper; she was a counselor, confidante, and mother-away-from-home for many of our residents, and she was a funny, sassy person who would play practical jokes on the students. And on top of losing her, one of the residents who was closest to her found out the very same day that a friend from home had died in an accident.
We were still dealing with all of this when we got up Monday morning. Then, of course, by midday the reports starting coming in from Boston, that there had been explosions at the Boston Marathon and people had died, with many more wounded.
No one we know was there (that we're aware of), but coming right on the heels of trying to deal with the senselessness of death itself, particularly when it takes someone so energetic or so young, it was a blow to then try to process the senselessness of someone who actually wants to kill other people they don't even know.
However, having so many deaths close together puts them each, in a strange way, into perspective.
My thoughts about the Boston bombings are similar to my reflections on 9/11 that I shared previously; that is, an incident like this doesn't make me feel less safe or secure because I already have an understanding of both my own mortality and the capriciousness of death. Yes, no one expects that they could possibly die while completing a marathon. We don't anticipate that some other human being could want to cause death and destruction to others. But neither do we expect to get a brain tumor, or fall off a cliff, or get hit by a car. No matter who you are or where you live or what you do, there is always the possibility you will die before you expect to.
I don't know about you, but I find it freeing to remind myself that everybody dies and that no one gets to choose the length of their life. We cannot put up safety fences around our life and somehow live forever because we never took any risks -- everything we do, from eating to traveling to simply inheriting a set of genes, carries the potential for risk.
So to me, this horrible tragedy at the Boston Marathon does not carry the message Running in marathons is now dangerous. It is a reminder that there are no guarantees in life, and thus we have more reason, not less, to get out there and do the things that make our life fulfilling, whether running a marathon or taking care of a dorm full of students.
We have more reason to see each day on Earth as an incredible gift to be spent wisely.
We have more reason to pour our limited time and energy into those things that we deem important.
The fragility of life means that we should not be careless with it, but neither should be so careful that we forget to live.
Many of the messages I've seen in the last 24 hours focus on the fact that in the midst of tragedy there is always evidence of the strength of the human spirit and that we should find hope in how communities come together to support one another. I agree, but not simply because it is nice to have hope and inspiration in the midst of darkness.
Rather, I know that we will continue to be faced with deaths that seem unfair or senseless, whether from disease or accident or malicious intent, and the most we can ever hope to do is live well. And the kind of living we see in the aftermath of disaster -- people taking care of one another, people looking out for those in need, people treating strangers as precious fellow human beings -- is a reminder of the best kind of living we can ever strive for.
It's a rough and beautiful world. Let's remember to take care of each other.