Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life Is Terminal

I wrote the following post on September 18...four days ago.  I woke up this morning to the news that one of our pilots, my good friend Paul Westlund, had perished in an aircraft accident in the mountains of Papua.  I'll post more about Paul in the near future...but for now, here are the words that I am reminding my stunned spirit are still as true today as they were four days ago. 


Recently Sheri and I spent part of an afternoon walking through an ancient cemetery in Stark, New Hampshire.  We wandered through the markers, reading the names, while a warm wind blew through the huge pines.  Fascinating.  Some folks didn't make it to their 9th birthday.  Some lived into their 90's.  Some of the gravestones, dated in the mid-1800's were so weather-worn they were hard to read.  Some markers were brand new.  Some people, judging by the size of the rocks stuck in the ground, were wealthy.  Some were poor.  Some were kids, some were soldiers.  All of their lives had one thing in common: they ended.

Why is it that the one thing I know with certainty will happen to me I spend so little time thinking about?  I know almost nothing about the future, but, intellectually at least, I know my days are numbered.  But my response to that knowledge isn't what it should be, I think.  If I knew for certain that a stock was going to rise 400% I think I'd probably spend some time rearranging my meager resources to try and make them less meager.  Knowledge of the future influences our actions today.  Yet, there's only one thing I really know will happen in the future and I don't let it have the influence on my day to day activities that it should.

Life on this planet is terminal.

To be a little more precise, life in the skins we're in is temporary.  Life itself isn't temporary...only our skins are.

Cameron, when he was around four, asked me what dying was.  I told him, 

Cameron, you will always be.  But someday, your body is going to stop working.

And I think this sense of continuity is what brings the proper perspective to death.  J.R.R. Tolkien blessed us with a few profound sentences when, at a particularly dire point in one of his stories, when there was almost certainly no hope, Gandalf turns to Pippin and says:

The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.  

So I live my life here with the knowledge that my days on this planet are limited.  My opportunities to fully submit and follow hard after God, in this place, are numbered.  I can tread water until that day when my body quits, living an average life, on a pleasant path of my own choosing.  But what an opportunity I have to make the most of these short days to enjoy the adventure of following Him fully.


Melody said...

Yes, these are truths we must remind ourselves of, even when everything in the physical world tries to convince us otherwise. Gary and I thought of you guys right away at the news of Paul's death - even harder in a way if you are not 'there' at this time. May God comfort.

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