Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The End is Near (er)

A couple of years ago the elementary school where I teach 4th grade reached its 20th Anniversary. We planned a big celebration, of course. My fellow grade level teachers had a fun idea: let’s have all the children write an essay about what they think they’ll be doing 20 years from now! And the teachers could write one, too!

I sat there for a minute, then I replied, “I don’t really want to write one of those. I probably won’t be alive in 20 years.” Yeah…that was a real mood killer.

They immediately protested, and reassured me that I was just being silly–I wasn’t that old–come on! And I laughed it off, and we proceeded to plan other parts of our school celebration. But, I was just being nice. I probably won’t be living on earth in 20 more years.

I don’t feel ghoulish about it. It is just a fact. From the moment of our birth, the clock is ticking on our stay here in mortality. The norm in my world is that people grow older and generally pass on when they’ve lived a full life of many decades.

But, if you are born in some parts of the United States, in certain demographic situations, you actually do not expect that you’ll grow to be an old man. In fact, you and a number of your peers will likely die a violent death. I have a co-worker who went to college (against many odds) and teaches school and seems to be living a life similar to mine. However, she is part of a family that has most of its members living in the “other” style that she left behind. She has attended a funeral for a close, young, relative every year I’ve known her. Death isn’t a far-away, someday-thing for old people in that world.

How much does family history figure in to the age one will reach before death? It may make a difference because of certain health issues: diabetes, heart disease, some cancers. But, in my family, the stats are really skewed. My father’s dad was dead at 34…murdered…by his brother…sort of accidentally. Daddy’s mother had died two years before at age 27–she’d fallen down some stairs, and was unconscious. Because of how she’d landed, she couldn’t breath. She died before my six-year-old dad could bring back some help. Orphaned by age 8, my father lived 61 years and one month. He passed 30 days after his birthday from the leukemia he had been fighting for six years. (Yes, I should write a book about his tragic childhood…)

However, on my mother’s side, her father lived to age 96. Grandpa told me once that he’d had to revise his plans over and over, because the people he’d wished to speak or sing at his service kept dying before it was time for Grandpa’s funeral. My mom, his daughter, lived until the age of 78. Lucky for her, she was fairly robust until the last few months, and then she rapidly slid downhill. Actually, she felt relieved to be going. She’d really missed my dad all those years. When you went to visit her in those last few weeks, she’d point out an item from her house, and urge you to take it with you right then, because she knew you really liked it, and she didn’t need it anymore. Practical woman right to the end.

So, I don’t feel negatively about contemplating my demise. I just feel realistic. I’ve already out-lived my father by three years, and his life was seriously diminished by his illness in the final three years. I am still quite healthy. If I make it at least as far as my mother, I’ve got fourteen years left. We have two grandchildren who are 14 years old. Hmm, when I think of it like that, I get a little pensive. After all, those two have grown up in the blink of an eye. I hope the remainder of my life doesn’t fly by that fast.

The end—it is coming.One thing that makes this less intimidating is to reflect on how you are living your life right now. In reality, the only thing that counts is each moment. If you’re putting off positive experiences, thinking that “someday” you’ll reward yourself—cut it out!! Enjoy your life right now!

If you have serious regrets about things from the past—cut it out!! You can only change what is happening right now. Be the kind of person from now on that you wish you had been then.

Be such a cheerful, good, and thoughtful person that, when you finally do leave this mortal realm, people will miss you, and use you as an inspiration to live their lives the same way. Or, you can mope around, morbidly lamenting the fleeting state of mortality.

The choice is all yours how to spend each blessed moment that we have here as human beings on our earthly home. The end.

Here's the view that some of my relatives will have on Resurrection Morning.

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