Paul W. Barada
Every once in a while we are reminded what a tenuous proposition life can be. Within the last 10 days, two friends and a family member have passed away. None were completely unexpected, but it's traumatic nonetheless.
Some of you may remember hearing about Mike McLaughlin, the co-author on a couple of books we wrote. He passed away Aug. 10 after a long illness in Charleston, S.C. About the same time, Phil Goddard's mother died in Indianapolis. She was the widow of Judge John Goddard from Decatur County. She lived to be 95. Phil, Mike, and I were all in the same pledge class at IU in the fall of 1963. Because they were from Greensburg, I was often in their home and Alice Goddard always made me feel welcome. She had been in failing health for the last several months. Her funeral service was Aug. 15. That same day, Connie's mother passed away at Methodist Hospital after a massive stroke. She had not been in good health for the last several months, but a stroke was not anticipated. She was 91.
Even when a passing is expected, it's still a shock to those left behind. There's absolutely no way one can prepare emotionally for the loss of a friend or family member, even when everyone knows that death is coming. And there are occasions when it truly is a blessing when someone is suffering and there is no realistic hope for recovery or when the life one will be left with is being sustained artificially. Despite all the advances being made in modern medicine, the end of life is one event that no one can ultimately prevent. There are numerous comforting thoughts that can be shared, but the sense of loss is still profound and, at least in this instance, very depressing. The loss of three lives in fewer than 10 days is profoundly sad.
At another level, however, the passing of a friend or family member highlights how very tenuous life truly is and points out how all of us should share time with friends and family while we can. Even in an instance when death is not far away, one can only hope that there's still time to be spent together, time to remember, and time to say good-bye.
We all live life walking on a tightrope made of a spider's web. Nothing about life, therefore, should be taken for granted. There is more than a little prophetic truth in the old saying, "Here today, gone tomorrow." One simply never knows when the sand will finally run though the hourglass. That's why no one should take this earthly existence for granted. Every day we are allotted should be looked upon as a gift to be treasured. If we all did that, perhaps we would be kinder to each other. Perhaps the vicissitudes of life would seem less worrisome. Perhaps the things we worry about could be put in their proper perspective. Perhaps we would take the time to be thankful for the simple things in life that we so often take for granted Ð like friendship, a kind word, a beautiful day, or giving happiness to others.
There's a popular song titled, "Live Like You Were Dying." At this moment it seems oddly appropriate. Some of the lyrics are a little trite, but some are not. One line goes, "I gave forgiveness I'd been denying." That's an important part of it, too. Forgiving others is a two-way street that makes both parties feel good in the giving and in the receiving.
At an earlier period in life, the time came when the parents of my generation of friends started to pass away. It was heartbreaking to hear a classmate who lived far away from her mother tearfully say that what she regretted most was not having the chance to tell her good-bye. At that moment, in the funeral home, it was too late and there was precious little that could be done to assuage my friend's grief. That, ultimately, is the saddest part of losing a friend or relative - not being able to tell someone how much they meant to us, or how much we loved them, or how they were loved by others. The point, I think, is those are the kinds of thoughts that we ought to be sharing right now while those we care about are still with us.
Life, at best, is short. And there are times when we become so consumed with the day-to-day business of living that it becomes very easy to forget the things that really matter, that we value most and, unfortunately, take for granted. These last few days have taught me, if nothing else, to take nothing for granted. Life offers no guarantees and makes no promises that justify putting off doing that kind deed or telling someone, "I'm glad you're my friend," or taking the time to be thankful for the blessings we've been given.
While there is truth in the old adage, that "life is what you make it," it is also true that others help us along the way with their care and concern for us, by being there when we need them. The last days have shown me, all too clearly, that they won't always be there. So, take the time today, while there still is time, to be thankful for your life and the lives of those you care about.
That's Ñ30Ñ for this week.