Death is God’s way of getting our attention. Just how much attention is determined by several factors.
Was the person Pavarrati, or my cousin from Vegreville, or a teen drug dealer, or an elderly neighbour? Did it become a media event or a private affair? Were there floral and plush-toy shrines à la Princess Diana?
Was the death spectacular in either its tragedy or circumstances or senselessness? Did death come way too soon or at the end of a full and complete life?
Was the death preventable? Inevitable? Self-inflicted? Was it natural causes or the result of a criminal act?
These are age-old questions with no simple answers. Small towns are famous for their support during times of tragedy. And this past week in my small town there’s been no shortage of death. Last week our son called to say his father-in-law had died in his sleep.
It’s a shock and a tragedy when anyone dies, but far more complicated when a farmer dies during harvest. We spent a few hours at the farm, trying, like everyone else, to come to terms with this shock and yet the harvest continued.
I also saw first-hand the universal language of mourning–food. Food began arriving. Is this a Ukrainian thing, or do other people do it as well? Of course, it helped feed the ever-growing numbers who dropped in to share their condolences and disbelief.
Many of us had literally only a few hours between that funeral Monday morning and a prayer service Monday evening for another popular retired farmer who had succumbed to lung cancer.
I left the prayer service to news that my cousin’s 19-year-old daughter was in critical condition following a motor vehicle accident earlier in the day. Our prayers go out to that young woman and her family.
It was a short and troubled sleep and we thought we were dreaming when we heard sirens early this morning in our quiet country neighbourhood. A trip to town a few hours later provided the explanation. Our neighbour was dead of a heart attack. Later that day, an ambulance showed up at that neighbour’s field. A farming accident? We haven’t heard.
So if death is an attention getter, what’s the message? What’s the lesson? And are we paying attention? The lessons are straightforward, oft-repeated, and easy for all us mortals to ignore. Know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. If they’re bad, fix them. Don’t smoke. Don’t drive aggressively or speed. Wear a seat belt.
Consider each day a gift and use it wisely. Live each day as though it was your last. Say I love you often. Mend fences. Keep your relationships and affairs in order. Don’t leave a huge mess for your survivors to clean up. Remember that life is precious and there are no guarantees.
The shock of these events will scare many of us straight–for a while. Then inevitably we forget, get complacent, think we’re immortal. We fall back into bad habits and laziness. We get careless. Please, no more lessons for a while, from where I sit.