“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.” – Oscar Wilde
My friend recently passed away and his death was another reminder of how fleeting life is. Many of us that live in the modern West pursue and enjoy youth, vitality, and health. Death, suffering, pain—these things are almost antithetical to Western values. No one likes to hear about or listen to someone else’s troubles, thus we tend not to share or disclose these seemingly negative stories. For the few that are fortunate enough to have friends or community who care enough, may be able to share in private and find support through trying times.
Death has such a profound impact on one’s thoughts and reflections, yet it is heavily avoided, perhaps even feared. I am no stranger to death, but my friend’s recent passing made me once again hit the pause button on life and wonder…
[insert from journal entry day of friend’s death]
What a surreal reality, death occurring at such a young age and how so many of us think we are immortal, entitled to live a long, full life. Yet, what do we spend our time doing?
I ask myself, what would I want to be doing if I knew I was at the end of the road? Where would I like to see myself?
The premise of this question rests on health. I don’t want to be in a place where I am too ill to do anything, but receive treatment, go to hospitals, and be looked after. If that were the case, I would want to be with my wife and loved ones, but I also desire not to be a burden. I would think about the past life and if I would regret anything? Promises unfulfilled? What would be the answer now?
Own and ride a motorcycle? Too small… Travel? Any place I have not been? Not really… Mountains summited to seas explored and beaches basked… Momentary highs and reflections of how small we are would bring me back… home. Being with my wife in good health… Wow can’t say I have too many reservations.
Would I be unsatisfied with the possible regret of wanting to achieve more? Seeing some things happen in my lifetime? Peace, prosperity, unity, God’s kingdom? Not really… Is that a limited, selfish, narrow perspective?
I ask again, what would I like to see happen in my lifetime? What would I like to achieve?
Jadedness? From traveling, seeing, experiencing, that my heart is jaded to think what is the point? Fleeting life? Yet contrast that with a couple of days ago of desiring more. Why? Leave a legacy? Leave provisions for the next generation? Am I that comfortable?
When we live in a culture that only celebrates and focuses on life and positivity, these seem to lose their value and meaning. For those who live a privileged life and may think that the lack of struggles and pains is a fortunate thing, ironically have the most empty lives. Many may think that they are living, but in reality they are simply existing—existing in comforts and security, in stale relationships, in consumerism, and in meaningless pursuits.
This so called privilege we live in is evident in many facets, but more recently relevant with birth. As we are expecting a new birth and new life, it is very common to see the focus and celebration of life. Social media posts, baby showers, outpouring of gifts, letters and messages, public announcements, all celebrating new life. The scale leans heavily towards this kind of celebration, with very little room for the lamentation of the many unspoken deaths, the deep wounds and scars, unanswered questions and prayers, and those who may not be able to experience the gift of life.
Is this the right way to approach life? Are we doing a disservice to ourselves by not acknowledging and addressing death? That death makes life precious. Death makes life meaningful.
This is particularly more true for the Christian. Or at least it ought to be. Yet, how often do we see a new birth announcement and baby dedication in a church gathering compared to the death of a sixteen week child? How often do we celebrate life and how often do we claim victory over death? I question my belief, my faith, I question how real death and resurrection is. I question Christians living in the West, if our lives reflect something drastically different than someone who does not share the same belief? I am learning that it is one thing to say that I believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and another to live that belief out.
I hope that I can live, and not just exist. I hope my death will be as much as a celebration as my life. I hope I can relay this message to my child and not forget how fleeting life can be and how precious it is. I hope existence doesn’t sweep over living. I hope for that resurrected life.
My friend’s recent death has probably brought much pain to those closest to him. I don’t intend to diminish or take away any of the pain and mourning, yet I also acknowledge how his life as well as his death was truly something different…
Through your life and death, you have made me reflect more on life and more on God. You had your quirks, like your particular taste buds, loving games and gaming, and being sold out for Christ, and you had such a warmth, your big bear hugs skipping over the distant handshake, your brightness that must have reflected the light of God, the light and Spirit of God. Thank you for your life, and I hope to honor you in your death, to remember this fleeting, temporary life of mine, to not waste the moments, to be grateful, to pursue, run while I can, to know more of God and myself, live unashamed, live warmly, live honestly. Thank you.