I'm likely halfway through my life, if my life were something that were simply measured up against an actuarial table. In reality, I have no idea how much longer I have. None of us do, really.
Is it morbid to think about the end? People often interpret me that way when I write or say comments like the one above. I think it's important to think about death, and the light that this one ninevitable fact shines so strongly upon the rest of our lives.
Who do we want to be? How do we want to be remembered? How can we make the most of whatever time we have on this magnificent yet bewildering world upon which our lives turn?
Death hasn't called upon many people in my life, so it's kind of a shock when two people I know die in the course of a month.
One was Tim Davis, murdered in cold blood when he watching the sunset in the mountains. Those facts still shock me, and his passing makes me regret all I could have learned from him about radio.
The other was Marvin Hilton, a man I knew from the Senior Statesmen of Virginia and from a lecture event I record before every UVA football game. He crossed into my professional life this year when he came on board the Albemarle County Service Authority. This pleased me.
But, yesterday morning I was very sad to learn he'd died suddenly on Sunday. Out of the blue.
Every second, someone dies somewhere in the world. People drop out of the tapestry of the living and become part of something else none of us can know about yet.
This is where knowing the word "ineffable" becomes so incredibly useful.
Marvin lived a long life. I did not know him very well, but I respected him and the contributions he made to our community. I remember him telling me in an interview he had hoped to be named to the Planning Commission, but was happy to be working for the county's water and sewer infrastructure.
Tim deserved to live longer, but I know he was doing what he loved to do and was making the most of his life.
Leaving aside the pain we may feel from the passage of others, what can we learn about ourselves, and the work we need to do in our lives to make them what we want them to be? Death is such a sobering reality, one best to confront directly instead of fearing it, pretending it won't happen.
At some point in my mid-twenties, I decided to move to Arlington so I could seriously have a go at being in a band with a friend of mine. This decision came after a funeral I'd attended for a high school with whom I'd had a terrible falling out. One day I hope to be able to write about him a bit more.
For now, though, after Brian Mercado died, I committed myself to living my life the way I wanted to. I didn't really know how to go about doing that, and I'm not sure I really know if I ever will. But, I do know that I can always hear the clock ticking.
My mid-thirties are turning out to look a lot like my mid-twenties, when I was still trying to figure out how to live my life. I've found myself in this odd situation where I'm a bachelor who works two jobs and does whatever he can do to pay for an ever-increasing set of bills. Is that my life? Is this who I wanted to be?
Thing is, though, I'm more at peace than I've been in a while. I have a sure-fire way to remind myself I'm alive, striving towards the light much like one of the plants growing on my dining room table. I go for a run and push my body to reach new goals. I deliberately seek out steep hills to climb, and wow, I feel like I'm living a totally different life now.
But yet, the passage of these two men reminds me that perhaps there's more I need to do. In short, what do I want my kids to remember about me? What, dear reader, would I like you to remember about me in the event that I pop my clogs during that next run?
I don't know, and can't know, and that's not really the point here. My point is simply to say that every second we have is precious. For me that translates in trying to do whatever I can to make as many people happy. I want to treat people decently, tell people what I think they want and need to know.
Rest in peace to the fallen.
Work towards peace for the rest of us.
There's so much conflict out there, and I'd venture to say much of stems because people are hard-wired to not get along with each other. We're still animals on the savanna.
But, yet, please remember: We mourn our dead. We celebrate our dead. In that very basic fact, can't we find some way to make things better for the living, and those who will live in the future?