Today is three years since my Dad died, and I miss him dearly. With the exception of my wife, there’s probably no one I talked to more frequently. He was always there, my biggest fan and advocate. I wrote about him on October 23rd, 2019.
My Dad didn’t die suddenly, but was failing over a period of time. The same was true for my father-in-law and most of the people I’ve lost in my life. Now 59 myself, the list is extensive, including all my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others…most where it wasn’t a surprise by the time they reached the end. I have a cousin, Eric who died almost 30 years ago at the age of 30, from Hodgkin disease. With him beginning his cancer journey at age 9, it wasn’t a surprise, although very sad and felt different given how young he was.
Jim Sweeney, acclaimed offensive lineman at Pitt, followed by the New York Jets and the Steelers, just suddenly died at age 60. I had the privilege of knowing Jim, playing high school football with him and reconnecting when in our early 40s. With all his success, you’d never meet a more humble person than Jim. What a great guy, who will be missed by many.
Jim was a shock. The deaths of the others, as indicated, were expected. Brian, a friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, is in a different category for me. Still with us while fighting a cancer that has progressed significantly, it’s tough to watch. Maybe it’s different because Brian is 10 years younger than me. Or because I’m of the age where my own mortality is more relevant. Or knowing the age of his kids, sensing what this is doing to his family.
I say “watch” above figuratively because I’ve not seen Brian often (couple times) since his diagnosis. I feel badly in not being more present to him. We talk and text periodically. I pray for him and his family often. None of it seems like enough.
Where am I going with this?
What’s my point? I think it’s three things…love, gratitude, and reflection. Taking the last first, I think we can learn a lot in reflecting on the lives of others. What are the lessons for us? Their impact on our lives? The things they may have done differently. We can also reflect on how we interacted with them…the things we would change for the future with others.
Born out of that reflection should be gratitude…for their lives, our relationships, and the lessons learned. When talking about death and suffering, it’s sometimes difficult to have an “attitude of gratitude”, understanding as I often say, “everything happens for a reason, according to God’s grand plan”. Believing that God doesn’t create these things, it’s my lived experience that He allows them to bring a greater good, have us grow closer to Him, and internalize His unconditional love.
Lastly is love, which arguably always comes first. Above all else as Jesus tells us in the Great Commandments, we’re called to love…love God and love our neighbors. While still on this earth, we need to love them, love them, love them, which can take many forms. That love can’t wait till they’re gone. We need to act. I need to act, not letting the busyness of life get in the way, not being distracted by the unimportant.
Here’s my encouragement to all of us. Life is precious. Life is short. Let’s love each other, including those sick, suffering, or in need. Let’s be grateful for the lives of others, and our relationship with them. Let’s continue to learn all that we can from those who go before us, so we can live the lives God calls us to.
As always, please email me with questions, concerns, comments, or prayer requests at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.
God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!
Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!