Tuesday, September 9, 2008

There's NOT Always Tomorrow

Surreal... that's how I would describe my friend's call to tell me that a lovely elderly couple we knew had died when their Frankfort home exploded early Saturday morning. "Didn't you hear the boom?" she asked. "It woke me up!" And she lives farther from the blast site than I do. How could I not hear the deafening sound or feel the ground shake as others reported in town, I wondered? Surreal.

Yet the photos and news coverage revealed it was anything but surreal...too real, in fact, for the family and friends of Clyde and Louella Reils or the neighbors whose homes are uninhabitable and whose street will always bear the scar of this tragedy. Nevertheless, the echo in my head says, "You just never know what life will bring. Live the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared."

This death day comes alongside a birthday, as my oldest turns 15 on September 8. And I have to wonder...am I really prepared to be here one day and gone the next? Do my children know how much I love them? Does my husband? Do my parents? Am I truly living the life worthy of the one to which God has called me...or am I doing a Splenda-like imitation, assuming (as the ultimate procrastinator that I am), that I will always have tomorrow?

My dad was fervent in his desire for my brother and me to know how much he loved us. Routinely, he would ask, "Have I told you lately that I love you?" Even if he had, I'd say, "Maybe" just to hear him say, "Well, I love you, Missy, you are one of the best things I've ever done in my life. I have loved being a father to you."

About 2 years ago this past weekend, I was sitting with my dad at my nephew's birthday party. We were paging through an old family album that his brother had found and given him. It had pictures of my dad's childhood homes, pictures of his siblings as children, pictures of his parents in younger and more carefree days, pictures of aunts and cousins I'd never met. As we looked and he narrated, tears began to slide down his cheeks, and emotional tension shifted. Suddenly, this was not just a walk down memory lane. I had this ominously disheartening sense that this was the beginning of a goodbye that I didn't want to come. "It's been a wonderful life, Missy, it really has," he told me, his voice breaking. "And I love you so much, you and your mother and your brother and your family and Erik's family."

"I know," I reassured him. "I love you, too, Daddy." Yet I felt he was already somewhere else, on his own, mentally reviewing his life and making sure he was ready to be here one day and gone the next. One month later, he died of a massive heart attack, caused by years of stress to his heart and lungs from a severe curvature of the spine. But I never had a sliver of a doubt whether my father loved me unconditionally.

So that boom that rocked Frankfort, but apparently not me, on Saturday morning feels like a symbolic wake up call. I, who always put off today what I can do tomorrow, am feeling like I need to pay better attention to the details in life. As a Christian my job is to get right with God and stay right by using my gifts in service to him in this world. That's the big picture view, and I'm pretty clear on that. The details, though, are what concern me.

In James 5:7-8, we read: "Be patient, then, my brothers, until the Lord comes. See how patient a farmer is as he waits for his land to produce precious crops. He waits patiently for the autumn and spring rains. You also must be patient. Keep your hopes high, for the day of the Lord's coming is near." Now this was written about two thousand years ago, which reminds me that God's sense of time is not the same as mine, but I do know that I want to be ready for whatever comes in life. Because as Clye and Louella's death illustrates, we don't always have tomorrow.

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