A Morbid Bit O' Fun
One of my favorite authors is a journalist/adventurer named Robert Young Pelton. His pithy observations about life, death, and dangerous places are priceless. His opus major entitled "The World's Most Dangerous Places" has just entered its 5th edition. It is a quick read, even though it runs over a thousand pages. Here is one quote that you might have thought I said, but it comes from his book, page 12:
"Most of the world lives day-to-day, hand to mouth, trusting to a religious deity or luck for their long-term survival. Yes, most of the world is poor, slightly nervous, and a little fatalistic about what's around the corner. But the secret is that they make do. Are they living every moment in fear and apprehension? Not really. It's the West that does that. It is only in developed countries ... that we have developed this obsession with fear and safety. There isn't really anything to fear. Crime is under control, wages are pretty good, life spans are longer, health is improving, and every segment of society has benefited from the political efforts of bleeding-heart liberals and the business efforts of cold-hearted capitalists. So let's all take a deep breath, have a group hug, and be thankful that if you are reading this book in English, and didn't steal it, you are part of the longest-lived, healthiest, most-protected generation that has ever lived on this planet."
Excuse me if I talk about death a moment. I am at Ohio State University where I teach a course on Death and Dying tomorrow morning to a group of forty or so mid-life professionals who already have their degrees (I'm the CEU guy). I have an excuse for thinking about death a lot. I come from Scotland. Anybody who lives/lived in a country where it rains every day, the national dress is a wool skirt, and the national music sounds like somebody is backing over a cat can be excused for longing for the nice long lay-down in the wee wood box. So here are some quick facts you might be interested in.
1. Everybody dies of something. Butter killed my grandfather. My grandmother slathered it on the stairs in the middle of the night. (Just kidding)
2. I have friends who exercise, eat right, and take vitamins. I think they're avoiding Jesus. They try to get me to run. I have a job, a car, and firearms -- so why do I need to run?
3. The reason we don't give our beloved one a ring with a lump of gravel on the top is because gravel is all over the place. We give them diamonds because those are much more rare. What is scarce is valuable. Since life is limited, that makes it valuable. Every hug, every sunrise (not that I'm up. I'm going on third hand info here) is beautiful.
4. Relationships are the most important thing. I played with my grandfather every week. Technically, he was dead, but my parents had him cremated and put his ashes in my Etch-O-Sketch, so we stayed close.
5. Our blessings have given us a sense of entitlement. We now want to live ever increasing lifespans, even though we genetically begin dying around the age 30 and, from then on, it is treading water, my friends! When we compare the length of time it takes us to deal with death versus the length of time it takes someone in Thailand or Uganda, it is staggering to see how quickly they re-enter their lives. Why? It isn't because they love their children or parents less. It is because they didn't expect someone to stop sickness and death. We do, and suffer for it. We would do better to consider this a temporary stop on our way to heaven.
6. Keeping all of this in mind allows us to enjoy every moment. Even the construction zones I navigated at glacial speed on my way down from Detroit to Columbus can be enjoyed. Spend that time making up funny stories about the people in other cars. Sing, pray, laugh -- whatever it takes. This might be your last traffic jam. Enjoy it!
Several years ago, I was recovering from surgery that removed a tumor (non-malignant, we found out later) from my head (not my brain, regardless of what you've heard). I hurt. Every noise hurt, every bit of light hurt, and I had two small children who wanted to play and couldn't understand why daddy was so grouchy and glaring at them. Then the Lord said to me (not audibly -- as a member of the Church of Christ I am sure I couldn't handle that) "If you can't be happy now, you can't be happy." He was right (duh!). I was in a comfy chair, had just received world class medical treatment, had two healthy children, and a excellent prognosis. I had reason to rejoice. Yes, I hurt, but only living people hurt. Dead ones don't.
A deacon had asked repeatedly if there was something he could do for me. I couldn't think of anything and he, in comic desperation, asked if I wanted someone to mow my lawn. Uh... it was February and he was making a joke. Yet, shortly after listening to God I heard another noise. I looked outside and there, on the brown grass and in the swirling flurries, that deacon was pushing a Fisher Price bubble mower back and forth across the lawn. Priceless. Reason to rejoice.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice.