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but there is no such thing as an untimely death

June 11, 2009

A classmate from my junior high and high school era was killed in an auto accident this week. I think she is the first of my classmates to be the subject of an obituary since graduation day, when five kids died incredibly stupidly. My friend Nancy, the only person I’m still in touch with from those La Jolla years, e-mailed me the news. I Googled her obit, beheld a startlingly glamorous photo, and was overcome with a vaguely defined but sharply visceral despondency.

The dead woman had been a “typically exceptional” girl. Like most of my classmates, she was an alien to me, far wealthier than I; indeed, far more everything, and with an implicitly superior destiny. Even by La Jolla standards, she came from privilege. She was pretty, but she had a beautiful glow that came from deep confidence and natural grace. She was athletic and a cheerleader; a good student all around, a member of all the service clubs, and, as everyone knew, destined to marry her dashing male counterpart in our class and have top billing in the best storybook life ever, forever after.

And it seems from her starry obit that so it was. They married, enjoyed the earned wealth of her husband’s success early, and lived among the rich and famous in New York, London, and Tokyo, before returning home, where she was adored by all who knew her for her untiring efforts helping others, and by the love of her life and their devoted children.

The obituary mentioned a celebration of life in a beach park and invited everyone who had known her. Celebrants were asked to bring their own beach chairs. No mention was made of any church or any hint of faith at all.

I think of all the lovely people in their beach chairs and I think of the urgency that needs to accompany the thought that where there is breath there is hope. There is so much peril that, “where there is breath there is hope” can become hackneyed. The God in whose hand this woman’s breath was has no obligation to make us sick or afraid before he wills our breath to cease.

No deep thoughts here: there is no way to contrast my old classmate’s ephemeral wealth with the riches of Christ she never knew. I never stop being amazed that by God’s grace, I, her professing atheist classmate in those days, can know of the riches of Christ’s salvation. I just think of the girl I knew, and admired to the extent that I could believe she was even possible, whose charmed life of 57 years ended so suddenly and unexpectedly, eternally enduring the fruits of her self-justification. I’m sorry that I can’t think of anything more horrible, or anything less horrible.

One Comment
  1. Laura permalink
    June 13, 2009 7:58 pm

    You underestimate the worth of your ruminations on this poor woman’s death. How it makes me thank God that we will have solid comfort in our last hours (if we are given consciousness of them–I personally hope not, since that means less opportunity to resort to sinful fear), and eternal life beyond. And how it makes me repent for being worldly-minded and losing a proper sense of urgency in dealing with the lost.

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