The year didn’t exactly begin with an essay flowing from the good intentions of my life goals for 2020. Fact is, I just did not feel like writing about something that, quite frankly, seemed…so uncertain…at so many levels for me. Who knows what I’ll be doing this time next year? Next month. Next week. Tomorrow? So why make lofty promises about positive thinking, disconnecting from toxic situations, regular exercise and eating clean? I just may devour what’s left in that bag of tortilla chips before I go to bed tonight. The new year was looking formidable enough without such burdensome goals. No pain…no pain!
And then along comes perspective…
- I was informed late that I’d have to teach a new class this semester.
- My SUV’s odometer rolled past 300K and another light came on.
- A World Series champion was caught cheating.
- The biggest island on the planet seemed to be burning down.
- The leader of the free world was impeached.
- A homeschooler with green hair and a cool voice won some Grammys.
- Another horrible war almost started.
- My youngest got her permit.
- We realized our beloved border collie was dying of cancer.
- The National Weather Service warned Floridians about falling iguanas.
- Mom ended up in the hospital with shingles.
- China tried to quarantine millions of people to stop a virus spreading worldwide. (And it doesn’t appear to be working very well.)
- Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash with eight other people, including his own daughter.
Now what’s different?
The smartest guy who ever lived said it’s much better to go to a funeral than a feast. After all, that’s where everyone of us end up, so we should try to learn something from it. Right?
Grief has a way of scouring the heart. And maybe THAT should be the right starting point to my new year. Scouring my heart. HOW am I going to live more meaningfully through this mortal mess that’s so beautiful, horrifying, silly, anarchic and…fragile? Noble as that question might sound, its answer can actually be painfully difficult to understand or accept.
Kobe’s tragic ending stopped us all, didn’t it? Even the Grammys. But does such a gut-wrenching pause for overwhelming grief and somber reflection encourage me to live any differently? Today? Tomorrow? The rest of 2020? Sheesh, how about the rest of my little life…
How does this potent reminder of my finitude impact my perceptions, attitudes and actions towards others—especially the ones I don’t particularly like? After all, to paraphrase Vin Scully, we’re all listed as day to day, aren’t we?
There’s a reason why an ancient king spoke about such things in Ecclesiastes 7–from the canonical Wisdom literature of the Old Testament–so many centuries ago.
I’ve had a good life in many ways with many blessings and joys. But I’ve had a share of tragic memories, too, like that awful helicopter crash on January 26. I randomly remember the summer day my grandfather died…that fall day my friend was burned to death in a gas explosion…the November 22 Kennedy was shot…the November 6 the dam broke…the December day my dog was run over just before Christmas…the summer funeral of the mom with three little kids…the January 28 the space shuttle blew up…the August 31 Diana died in a car crash…the October 16 my dad was killed…the day my friends’ newborn died…September 11…to name a few.
I’ve attended enough funerals, I should be a life genius at this point. Right? But I’m not. Far from it. So, I ask myself again…what have I learned from this that will change me? Why do I keep ignoring the certainty of my impending reality? How am I seeing 2020 now?
The year is still starting—the end is still coming.
“God whispers to us in our pleasures… but shouts in our pains:
It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”