I almost died recently, or maybe I didn’t depending on how one regards the situation. Two weeks ago, before the crack of dawn, I was driving through a residential neighborhood, on my way to Starbucks, so I could do some writing. As I was approaching an intersection a pick-up truck not only ran through a stop sign, right in front of me, but it was also traveling at an extremely high rate of speed. I did not have a stop sign, so a mere second or two sooner and I would not have been able to avoid being hit broadside. Death does not discriminate. It knows no sex, race, age, or good from evil. We don’t always know when to expect it, but we do expect it because it is the circle of life, and no one is immune.
I remember my Grandpa Nolin telling me, when I was in my early twenties, how quickly time goes by. It was around that same time when I used to think, after hearing someone had passed away in their fifties, “oh well, at least they had a good, long life.” Now that I’m older, and getting painfully closer to that magic number, I no longer believe fifty is old. I’m also well aware my grandpa was absolutely correct about life being so fleeting. I know a widowed Christian woman who loves God, and when she was in her fifties had said she would rather be with her Savior sooner than later. I can appreciate her sentiment, but she still has good health, employment, children, and grandchildren. Maybe I’m a little selfish, but I prefer being on this earth for a much longer time, if possible, experiencing all of the good things our Creator has given us to enjoy. I would also like to grow old with my wife and have the opportunity to one day spoil some grandchildren.
I do not know when I will take my last breath here on earth, but I do know I will be in Heaven afterwards. I once had a non-practicing Jehovah Witness friend who had said about Christians, among many other things, that they believe in Heaven only because they are afraid of death. I rarely agreed with most of the things he had to say, but as a Believer I do take comfort in the knowledge of where I will be someday. That apparently is not the case for George Costanza in an episode of the beloved television comedy series, Seinfeld, when the gang decides to volunteer spending time with senior citizens. George, the neurotic worry-wart of the bunch, is paired with a spry 85 year-old man, and as the two are having coffee, at a local diner, George gets concerned after the man claims he is not afraid of dying. Volunteer Costanza questions how an 85 year-old cannot be afraid of death since he himself is already worrying about it, and he is only in his thirties.
George continues his interrogation, and he keeps persisting the elderly man’s time on earth has to be just about up. He then declares the senior citizen is really pushing the envelope, but the old man’s reply is that he is grateful for the time he has, and he just doesn’t think about death all that much. Mr. Costanza keeps pestering the senior citizen, insisting he should be worried about his nearing demise, with more astounding comments such as, “How can you be grateful when you’re so close to the end,” and “You’re not stupid, you can read the handwriting on the wall.” The 85 year-old has finally had enough of George, as he gets up from the booth to leave, and tells the worry-wart, “Life’s too short to waste on you.” I hope my disposition about death, as I grow older, is closer to that of the elderly gentleman’s than to George Costanza’s viewpoint on the matter.
My first experience with death, except for the loss of a pet or two, was around the age of thirteen when my great uncle passed away. My parents insisted the whole family go to the visitation although only my mother and father would be attending the funeral service. I didn’t know the deceased all that well, and as a teen I had no desire for wasting a day off from school by driving out of town to mingle with some “strangers.” I admit the thought of seeing a dead body also kind of freaked me out. I tried pleading with my parents, in hopes of them allowing me to skip the visitation, but to no avail. Therefore, I resolved to take matters into my own hands. Shortly before the dreaded time had come, for us to leave, I made an escape out my bedroom window. The breakout wasn’t all that easy either: not with the window in the corner of the room being so small, my bed acting as somewhat of an obstacle, and then a short drop down to the ground below.
My daring feat was absolutely exhilarating. As I ran free down the street a sense of relief came over me, but it was almost immediately replaced with the fear of knowing I would be facing my father’s wrath when returning home later in the day. Unfortunately, I was not able to enjoy my new found freedom since I spent the entire time fretting and pondering what the punishment would be. The sentence ultimately handed down was much worse than the grounding, or the possible whoopin’ I had anticipated, because I was now being forced to attend the funeral service of my great uncle, and I knew escaping this time was not an option. Oh yeah, while my father was closing my bedroom window, in utter frustration and anger, he had broken the glass, but guess who had to pay to have the window replaced? Life is a journey filled with experiences and lessons learned. Death is a part of life, and without death we would never be able to fully appreciate life.