An Untimely Death

Last weekend, I presided at a friend’s memorial service. Ten years ago, I presided at their wedding. A second marriage for both and a happy marriage. They were out bicycling on a sunny day; an undetected blood clot; a heart attack; sudden death.

This isn’t a post I particularly wanted to write, and yet, it kept digging at me. In part, because I’m still in dismay and sadness as I was all last week. In part, because I, too, am in a second and happy marriage; in part, because of the truth I spoke at the memorial service and which lingers.

None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

At some level or another, we all know that. We just don’t want to recognize it or think about it.

None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

It’s a very old idea: Benjamin Franklin said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”; from the Book of Proverbs, much older than Ben Franklin and said to contain the sayings of King Solomon, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

I think I’m wandering in the land of meaning to avoid the reality: it sucks. It really sucks. But I didn’t say that.

What I said to the some 200 friends gathered was to live as our friend lived: kind, generous, loving, laughing. I said, take a moment to slow down in traffic; let someone in who’s trying to change lanes; take time to laugh with your family, to be generous to others in need.

All of which I believe. All of which I endeavor to do, even from my isolated perch at my desk at home.

I guess I thought writing might ease some of the sorrow I’m feeling, both for life and for my other friend in that marriage. A few months ago, my husband and I did both a marriage and two months later, a memorial service for a different couple.

Baby christenings are happier, as are weddings, usually, but the same rules apply. We do not know what tomorrow will bring.

Impermanence, the Buddhists teach: all things are in a constant state of flux.

We’ve had rain the past few days, finally, after a winter of drought with very little snow. The bluebonnets are thrusting little blue heads through the cold dirt and leftover oak leaves. That’s courage.

Perhaps that’s what I’m struggling with: the courage to accept impermanence. And yet, I know when the sun and warm days return, the bluebonnets will fade quickly as they do every year, leaving a mat of green leaves…as one thing transforms to another.