“Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.”
Yeah, I know . . . I have a tendency to mix my metaphors, but I think people will understand the essence of the images (verbal and non-verbal) of what I am attempting to convey. Life is fragile. For a while now I have been thinking about how fragile life truly is.
About two weeks ago, having spoken to the woman who is my advisor on the state level for my job at the university, and then waiting for her response . . . I learned three days later that she and one of her children were killed in a car accident. A mother of four children between the ages of eleven and sixteen she had died in an unfortunate accident as her oldest child was driving the family Suburban south of Butte. The son got distracted, drifted in his lane, attempted to over-correct three times before sending the vehicle end over end at least three times. His mother, Amber, and one of his siblings was killed. It all happened in the blink of an eye. Amber was in her mid-forties, the child killed was fifteen . . . gone forever in a flash . . . lives changed forever. No one saw it coming. Life is fragile.
An older couple in the congregation where I serve as a pastor . . . an active couple who do a lot of traveling . . . walk everywhere . . . fun. For weeks this couple had been talking about heading out to West Yellowstone for their annual two-week trip. Then suddenly the wife started having trouble with her back . . . trouble the doctors thought they could remedy with shots . . . and, for a while it seemed to work. But, it actually got worse as it affected her ability to walk and keep her balance. From nothing to a cane to eventually a walker . . . things changed. Then one day, the woman fell. The husband was unable to get her up. The ambulance came, the doctors checked her out, and the ultimatum was given . . . surgery . . . and now! One day they are laughing and enjoying themselves with friends and family, the next they are gone due to the body suddenly exerting itself through age. What was one day is gone the next. Plans get canceled. Dreams get squashed. Things change. Life is fragile.
Earlier this week, down in Alabama where the son-in-law is receiving training at Fort Rucker, the daughter and granddaughter went to the doctor’s office for a pre-appointment for the daughter’s pregnancy. It had been raining for a couple of days . . . really raining . . . like three inches worth . . . and thus the parking garage under the building was wet. With the granddaughter on her hip, the daughter slipped and sent them all tumbling to the ground. With natural parental instincts the daughter fell on her side protecting the granddaughter and the granddaughter-to-be. She scraped herself up, bruised her him, and shattered her ego. The granddaughter bumped her head. Immediately in panic the daughter started to cry.
Of course, seeing how it was a medical building, there were people there to help about as fast as it happened. Rushing her in to the emergency room they gave her the whole rigmarole . . . they examined her . . . x-rayed her . . . ultra sounded her . . . poke and prodded. They did the same for the granddaughter. Satisfied, they declared them all to be okay. The daughter calmed down, the granddaughter was a trooper, and the granddaughter-to-be probably did not realize anything was wrong. Yet, in the slip of a foot . . . the potential of serious injury and problems was there. And, it scares the bejeebers out of you . . . you imagine the worse and expect the best.
The daughter immediately wanted to call Mommy and Daddy, but refrained . . . until later in the day. When she did she shared all those feelings of helplessness as the accident happened. She shared how scared she was that something had happened to the unborn baby as they were entering into the third trimester. Shared how mad she was at herself for having fallen down. Shared all those things every parent has ever felt when things suddenly fly out of their control . . . life is fragile.
I think that all of us get so busy living life that we sometime forget how fragile life really is . . . how it can change in the blink of an eye. With Amber’s death . . . and all the traveling I do on the roads . . . I suddenly had to stop and thank God how lucky I have been in all my travels . . . that could have been me. The Lord knows how many close encounters there have been. With the couple from the congregation I serve . . . as I get older my body gets more defiant . . . it announces its aches and pains with more force . . . and reminds me that entrophy waits for no one. What works today might be gone tomorrow. One never knows what tomorrow will bring when going to bed at night. So far, I have been lucky. And, with the daughter’s unwanted trip . . . well, one never gives up the natural tendency of a parent to want to protect his or her children. My reaction was one of sadness as I was not there to protect her or my granddaughter . . . sadness that I could not bring them comfort . . . sadness to assure her that everything was okay . . . that she was not the first person in the history of parenthood to trip, fall, and bang up the kids in the process. Shoot, two of her brothers are lucky to be alive today after I dropped them! Hmmmm . . . might explain a little about them as adults now. But, the fact is all these things served as a reminder how most of us take life for granted and forget how fragile life really is.
To fully live is tough business. It is not easy as Mr. Sandburg reminds us . . . sometimes life is so tough it makes us cry. That is a part of life, too. I think the problem is that most of us have short-term memory problems. That we forget these moments when we are confronted with the fragileness of life and how quickly it can change . . . forget because we do not want to acknowledge that it could happen to us. No one is promised that bad things will not happen . . . and, they do. And, when they do, another layer of life is peeled back to be exposed, and we cry. We cry for what is lost. We cry for what mystery and change lies before us. Cry for what we once were and will no longer be. And, then . . .
. . . we jump back in and start living once again. At least that is what God hopes that we do. Maybe it is not a short-term memory problem, maybe it is a faith thing . . . a faith thing that is built on trusting in God to carry us through the fragileness of life . . . to carry us through the changes, crises, and problems thrown our way . . . or at least the knowledge to know that we are not alone, that God is with us all the way. Maybe because we do remember God’s presence we jump back in with two feet and live. I don’t think that I really know the answer to the question . . . despite the wonderfully mixed metaphors! I don’t know the answers, but I know that the reality of it all is . . . life is fragile.
In these moments when we are reminded that life is fragile, we receive a gift and blessing. The gift and blessing is in the moment that reminds us that we are living, breathing, and existing in the wonderful world that God has created . . . that we are embracing life to its fullest and most beautiful with all that we can . . . and, that this is what God wants us to do. Life is a gift and blessing, but it is a fragile one we must respect, honor, and treat well . . . by moving forward. It just hurts when we are reminded . . . life is fragile . . . sometimes we cry . . . but we must always strive to live it to its fullest. God expects nothing less.