Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Immortality Shattered

I recently attended a memorial service for a 28-year old man.  His mother is my friend, but I had never met him.  She was devastated.  This was not supposed to happen.  Parents are not supposed to outlive their children.

The hall was filled with family members and friends of the family, but it was also filled with this young man’s friends.  For some of these young people, this was the first time someone of their own age had died.  For some of these young people, their inner concept that they would live forever was shattered.  One of their own had died.  They, too, would die. 

I remember the day when immortality shattered for me.  I was 23.  I had fallen asleep to the radio and was jarred awake when I thought I had heard my friend’s name in a report of a fatal accident.  I left the radio on and dozed fitfully, listening for another report.  It finally came.  My friend LuAnn had been killed in a freak accident on her way home from work that day.

At 7:00 AM the call came.  Her mother was on the other end of the phone.  “I heard,” I told her.  “Is there anything I can do?”  I’m not sure where I came up with that.  Looking back, of course, there was absolutely nothing I could do.  There was absolutely nothing anyone could do. 

The group of her friends – which had only recently become my friends – gathered.  We took turns crying and consoling one another.  We shared our happiest memories of LuAnn.  We grieved with her parents.  And I knew at that time that none of our lives would ever be the same – in more ways than one.

I have come to know that the moment when the loss of a loved one forces us to fully realize that we are mortal creatures, that there is an end of the life we have here on earth, comes to everyone.  I know the story of that moment in my father’s life.  I know the story of that moment in my son’s life. 

The memory of my friend lives on.  LuAnn’s family established a memorial scholarship in her name.  Many students have now had the opportunity to pursue what would have been LuAnn’s dream.  When I picture these students, smiling in their caps and gowns, very much like the photo I have of LuAnn and me at graduation, it makes me smile. 

“Love and Possession, death and life are one.  There falls no shadow where there shines no sun.” --  Hilaire Belloc

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