Death. We all know it’s coming. We all are aware of it’s presence. It could touch us at any moment, whether it be an automobile accident or a heart attack, none of us are out of it’s reach. Most of us though, have found a way to keep it from our thoughts, so we can sanely go about our everyday lives.
I work for a lawn care business part time right now, and earlier this week we did some mowing at a cemetery near Republic, Ohio. Republic is a small town out in the farmlands and cornfields of rural Ohio, and the cemetery sat right in the middle of it. It was half the size of a football field, and it sat next to an old church, probably built in the early 1940’s. As I carefully took my weed eater and cleaned up the bases of the headstones, I began to read their inscriptions. There were many who lived long ago, and a few who lived recently. Many who lived long lives, some not so. There were some waiting on their lots to be filled. There were war veterans, children, farmers, and one mother with her two infant twins. Every stone seemed to have a story. Every stone seemed to make death feel a little more real.
A little over a year ago I went with my parents on a hospital visit. We were going to see a friend of mine who had been diagnosed with colon cancer. He was in his mid 30’s and had only been married a few years. As we walked in the mood was fairly positive, and we were warmly welcomed. My dad is an assistant pastor at our church, so he does this type of thing fairly often. What I did not know at the time is just how serious the situation had become. The cancer had spread and the outlook was not very positive. I sat and watched quietly as my dad knelt by the hospital bed and told him the news. Never in my life have I witnessed that kind of emotion. I watched as my friend literally came to grips with the fact that he didn’t have long to live. Death had found him. I did all I could to hold it together. I told him I loved him and got to my car as soon as I could so I could break down. The weight of that moment was overwhelming, stifling, completely crippling.
A year or so later, I find myself having small versions of this same moment often. Not out of worry or panic, but a sense of urgency. That could be me in that hospital bed. I really don’t know how much time I have. None of us do. I don’t want to waste a single day that I have been blessed with here on this earth.
In the end our story is told by a dash between two sets of numbers. That dash is how we are remembered, what people think of us, and the mark we leave on this earth. We all have the power to make that dash say whatever we want it to say. Maybe if death were on our mind a little more, we would make life a lot more worth while.