Live Every Day as if it is Your Last (And Get Right With God While You Have Time)
No matter how often people have to have things “put into perspective”, no matter how many times someone utters the phrase, “live like there is no tomorrow, because tomorrow is not promised to anyone,” it is so easy for many people to lose sight of the fragility of life, and how easily it is for any of us to be taken out of here in a blink of an eye. None of us knows when our number will be called, and when our lights will be snuffed out in the matter of a blink of an eye — in some cases. This is one post where I will not bend and assuage the beliefs of others, as I believe in God through Jesus Christ, and, after all, those who are called according to His purpose are to preach and teach this fact.
So many people have long, drawn-out periods of declining health, where they pass away after months or even years of severe illness. On their death beds, they are often filled with regret over unfinished business, unrealized potential, dreams dashed to bits, and plans that were put off and never fulfilled. They realize that it is too late to go back and change the past. Time waits for no one, and now they are physically incapable of doing many things that they merely put off because something that they deemed to be important (but later realized to be trivial by comparison). We have all known people who have done this, whether relatives, close friends, or even characters on TV and movies. (As art imitates life, right? Or does it often foretell? Another subject for another day.)
How often must these things occur before we put things into perspective and KEEP THEM THERE?
Today, upon awakening and doing my non-routine, but rather genuine prayer and giving thanks to God for waking me and allowing me to see another day, and expressing that I do not take any day that I see for granted, I hit the floor and began my task of cleaning my apartment and cooking before the New York Yankees took on the Detroit Tigers in the rubber match of an exciting three-game series. My phone is usually off every night when I go to bed, as some of my apps still cause my phone to buzz with the volume set to “silent.” So once I turned on my phone this morning, I saw a text and a missed call stating that an old high school classmate, and a friend who I had not seen (and now, never will again) for 20 years — but have been reacquainted with over the past six years due to the advent of Facebook — Heather Booth, was killed in a head-on collision on Saturday night near High Point, North Carolina. I was not as close to Heather as I was with some of the other classmates that have passed away since I left high school in 1997 (and there have been MANY, including an old buddy and former co-worker, Natalie Fralin, just two months ago), but I feel for her closest friends, her son, and her family; particularly her mother.
It unsettles me, recreating what that scene must have been like, having watched her life flash before her eyes in an instant, and have it taken away just like that. That is the part that jolts the most, as some of her closer friends had just spoken to her literally a few hours before the crash. I had not spoken to Heather since I returned from my trip back home to New York a couple of weeks ago. Prior to that, she and I had a few conversations about a new initiative that she wanted to begin, and having co-founded two non-profit organizations, she had reached out to me for help to get started. The aforementioned talk about “unfinished plans” came to mind. Things never got seriously going, but it would behoove her best friends to pick up where she left off with those plans, if they truly cherish her memory. It was a worthwhile ambition, and the vision should not pass away with her physical passing away.
Some people have never endured shocking deaths, not of a friend, of a relative or an acquaintance. Some have not experienced death at all. For the most part, until I made it to my early-mid 20s, outside of a few older relatives that I was not as close to as I should have been allowed to be (family issues, which will remain offline), and a couple of classmates and church members who I barely knew (which rendered my sentiments less poignant), I hadn’t lose anyone remotely close to me, until my great-aunt passed away in 2004, just before my 25th birthday. From that point, I began losing relatives seemingly (and almost literally) every 6-8 months for the following decade, including two of my grandparents within two months of each other in 2009, and the three remaining grandparents between April 2007 and November 2009 — as my maternal grandfather passed away when I was four years old.
I had learned that he passed away much later (as presumably, my parents did not want us to be traumatized as mere toddlers at the time), but this picture was taken just months before he passed away under the the exact same circumstances as Heather did.
The number of people who I have either been friends with, or knew of through friends who were UNDER THE AGE OF 35 that have passed away in the past decade has been startling. It is not as if young people have not passed away in droves throughout history, but the swiftness in which it occurs — like a light flicking on or off — is what makes the occurrences so startling. Some of these people had illnesses that no one knew they had — sometimes not even the person who was ill themselves — others have died due to violence, car accidents, and other one-off scenarios, which are often harder to take than even watching a relative deteriorate rapidly due to illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and full blown AIDS — all of which I witnessed before I even hit my teen years.
To watch someone literally be active, vital and touching so many people one minute, and then next, be gone, is a stark reminder of how fragile life is — AS WELL AS A REMINDER OF HOW MUCH YOU SHOULD CHERISH EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY, NO MATTER HOW “HOKEY” IT MAY BE IN THE EYES OF OTHERS. Some people are so morbid with their outlook on life that even a quick passing of someone close to them would not shock them back to reality. Others need no reminder, as they have witnessed death at every turn for most of their lives.
If you have your grandparents, cherish them. Spend time with them. Talk to them. Visit them. Write them. Same with your parents. Same with your friends. Same with your cousins, siblings, significant other, spouse, friend that you haven’t spoken to in years. Part of what eats up a lot of people is the fact that they passed on an opportunity to do so, only to find out that the loved one passed away suddenly.
I saw several people on Heather’s page express that they wish they had reached out to her and told her how they felt now, after the fact. What of this? Why wait? The same with relationships or that person of interest that almost everyone has. Why be so concerned with saving face, or being labeled “thirsty” because you told the person how you felt? Besides, they may very well be oblivious to the fact in many of those instances, and your telling them could be the beginning of something beautiful. Additionally, if they were to pass away, how much worse would you feel if you found out they passed away before you ever had the chance to “sack up” or put aside the risk of being labeled as “thirsty” and tell them how you felt? Instead of playing games and making him or her chase you, why not return the text message from him or her, knowing they are genuinely interested in getting to know you?
Many of us have highly dysfunctional pockets in our families; generations who have never known about each other, haven’t spoken to members of factions within the family for years… all due to pettiness. What will it take to end this foolishness, when, despite how you may have felt about that person, there may have been a mere misunderstanding that led to the factions, and you will feel guilt along with the pain after the person passes away (or vice versa).
Rest in peace, Heather.
HOW OFTEN MUST THIS TYPE OF THING OCCUR BEFORE THINGS ARE PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE AND REMAIN THERE FOR LIFE?