Let’s be honest. The last ten days sucked. The unexpected deaths of two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana were absurdly connected to the deaths of five Dallas police officers. Combine those tragedies with deaths in Nice, France, everyone should acknowledge the internal wake up call that we know, but rarely acknowledge, our demise can occur at a moment’s notice.
It’s strange how life’s last moments seem unremarkable. The New York Times reported Philando Castile of Minnesota finished getting his hair styled, called his sister Allysza, and offered to deliver dinner to the suburban house she shares with their mother. Over a meal of Taco Bell takeout, the two alternated between laughter and serious discussions, including about the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by the police in Louisiana. He never returned home.
The five murdered Dallas officers were spouses and parents. They volunteered in schools and church and swore to serve and protect. One officer gave a homeless man a meal the night prior to his death. Officer Patrick Zamarripa served several tours of duty in Iraq only to be felled by a fellow vet.
As French revelers celebrated, a 19-ton refrigeration truck was driven nearly 70 miles per hour over a 1.1 mile stretch of road. The driver directly aimed for and struck celebrants before being stopped by French officers. The aftermath left trails of family ruin and death. One moment, a great celebration. The next moment, despair.
This post is not about the value of a life, whether it be Castile or Sterling, Dallas police officers or French victims. Each have been duly honored for giving more than I ever will. This post is not about the merits of concealed carry, the right to bear arms, Black Lives Matter or the fight against terrorism. This is about “understanding,” as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross noted perfectly:
“It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”
What I thought about were those brief moments when loved ones said goodbye and were never heard from again.
I am curious how life interacts, becomes separated from the interconnectedness and reconnects by some seemingly unrelated event. Any of us can be connected to family and friends one moment only to be connected to some tragic event later. We forget the number of lives we have touched today is like counting waves in the ocean, because each wave follows another until it vanishes from us. Through the lives of one another, everyone has already lived so many lives, so many forms, so and participated in so many stories.
In a noncritical way, as I look upon life’s ocean waves, I cannot but wonder what could have been – if Castile never purchased a handgun or achieved a concealed carry permit; if Castile’s officer had taken a more conciliatory approach; if a veteran sought help rather than a weapon; if the damn truck in Nice, France didn’t start or if someone offered its driver an open hand. Would all that were lost be alive?
I doubt if each victim imagined their life would end so abruptly. You and I share similar backgrounds, faiths, experiences, thoughts and love. Rarely does one think that before day’s end, one would move onward. Yet that very fact is all too common.
Readers, like those whom love and share our journey are the characters of our story. Most never want the story to end. Like you, we’ve invested significant effort into the knowing, molding and loving, the highs, lows and middle. We find it extremely difficult to near the final chapter.
Rarely do we have the ability to control our goodbye, there’s never enough time. We human ants are too busy with workouts, meetings, plane flights, doctor appointments, family and social functions. We replace brief moments of sharing with football, baseball, working late, burning the midnight oil and fixated upon this or that. Meanwhile, the readers of our lives wonder of the story within, the writer’s composition and homily. Oh how the writer becomes a stranger, even to himself.
Unlike many, I haven’t chosen a one and true path. I’ve traveled far. But have I lived richly? My soul’s youth yearned to changed the world. I didn’t. I only changed myself. I know many would have loved my spontaneity, my energy, my ability to make people laugh. Yet I hid and cloistered my soul, even from those whom I loved. I forgot the last time I made love, lightly caressed or kissed.
The lesson this Buddha learned is that life and living life are completely different. Living life means recognizing our interconnections. This week’s memoriams demonstrate true living, people who embraced life’s highs, lows and middles. Life was about embracing their readers, about being human in the most vulnerable way, reaching out toward interconnectedness and rippling the ocean’s waves.
So, for all who passed, please … please relish, live and connect with the readers of your book (life).