It is one with this gift of freedom that the Children of men dwell only a short space in the world alive, and are not bound to it. – The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Anguish. Pain. Suffering. Weapons of war rip through one who was once healthy. Disease eats the body. Poison seeps through the blood. Lives are taken. Death comes as the dark of twilight, consistent and cold.
Tears. Sorrow. Mourning. One that was loved is now gone. The one who loved has passed away. Their memory is but a phantom in the place where they once stood beside us. Lives are broken. Death comes as the robber in the night, without warning and unstoppable.
Ending. Shattered. Final. Their great works shall be left undone. Dreams come to an end. Carefully wrought plans come unraveled. Lives are stopped. Death comes as the thunderstorm, halting the day’s work.
This is the context that colors our lives. It is the lens we see through. And though it is often filled with pain and suffering, the perspective death brings enriches our lives. It is, as J.R.R. Tolkien put it, the gift of men.
Rich. Sweet. Beautiful. Death makes our time scarce. But that makes it valuable. Each moment is worth treasuring. Every relationship deserves cherishing. Life is worth celebrating.
We forget this sometimes. In the rush of our lives, in the blur of doing, the end gets forgetten. Life loses its magic. But when death walks so near that we can see his black robes, we remember.
For all the reputation and chaos of Kenyan roads, the closest I’ve come to death has been in the United States. One day, while walking down a sidewalk near home, a car flashed out of the alley. Two steps further, a few heartbeats, one less pause to look at my lovely wife, and my life would be drastically different today – or maybe not at all.
I went on with my day, but it felt distinct somehow. Little things were more significant. Each smile was extra special. In the light it all being nearly gone, life was worth more.
Limited. Useful. Important. You can only do so much, so why not do something worthwhile? Why not create something that will last? Time is short, but you still have it.
You have unmatchable talents. br>
You can be the best in the world in some way. br>
You can give gifts that cannot be repayed. br>
You can create something worth remembering. br>
I hope you do something with all that you’ve been given. You have an incredible opportunity. You are alive.
Others. Community. Friendship. That something is other people. It is the lives we touch, even if they only be a few. Acts of kindness and gifts of abundance trickle through the streams of history, multiplying into a great river.
Helping other people is an investment that lasts. True, those people will eventually pass away. But the legacy of your generosity, the memory of your friendship, the stories of your wisdom will live on, echoing through the generations.
Invest in relationships. Build people up. Make other people matter.
Someday death will indeed come. With it will be pain and sorrow and works left undone. When it does arrive, my hope is not just that people will remember you – they will – but that your life will be worth remembering. I’m confident you will make it so.
Short-lived but all the more beautiful. I made this photo at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.