Monday, September 7, 2009

When September Comes (and goes)

September has been with us a few days now and when September comes and Labor Day passes I feel that fall has arrived when technically it doesn't arrive until the 20th or is the 21st? I can never remember exactly, but in the south summer often extends into October even if fall officially arrives in September.

My mother used to say fall was a depressing time for her and I would joke and ask, "how can fall be depressing - two of your children were born in October? For her it marked the time of the year when her father died. But I have always loved the fall - I love the cool crisp air, the color of the leaves and the smell that fall brings.

Yet as this autumn falls forward I have to admit that I have found myself thinking about those I've known who haven't made it to their 50th birthdays. I have felt grief over their passing so much this year. I have found myself at times almost blinded by the grief I have felt and sometimes the unfairness that they died so young.

I have also thought about friends who died during my teens and think about what could have been. I had three friends who died tragically before they were 17. Recently I found their photographs in a box of my high school memorabilia. I stared at those faces frozen in time wondering if after graduation we would have drifted apart just as most of my high school friends and I have or would we have stayed friends.

A year ago last spring a young man from our church family a young man who was a youth in my youth group who had lived with cystic fibrosis all of his life was killed in an automobile accident. My first memory of this young man was when I took the youth group on a mission trip. I didn't know he had CF until the morning we left when his mom stood outside the window of the van we were leaving in telling me that Will had CF. She explained that he knew what he needed to do if he became sick. I was shocked - we hadn't lived in the community long and this was a new church - but in the months prior to me taking this group I had no idea.

Over the years I grew to love this young man because he didn't let his life be defined by his disease. The reality was that CF would probably have taken his life, but then his life abruptly ended. We had no time to prepare, but in some ways the community had always been prepared. There have been days over this last year I have thought about Will - a song will come on the radio or just something will strike me that reminds me of Will. I also thought about Will this summer when my own Will could have died in an automobile accident.

For some reason my Will was spared and while my Will was trapped for over 45 minutes in that jeep overturned on the roof of an historic mill in the middle of Wilkes county, NC I felt that the other Will was with him calming him. I also felt my father-in-law was bargaining with God asking God not to take my Will right now - to let him live and for some reason God saw fit to let him live.

Then there was Tom. Tom was diagnosed with cancer two summers ago and fought hard. He had a lovely wife and two daughters and Tom was just a friend to everyone. When our Will got into a little trouble and when most people in his profession would have probably been very judgmental and would probably never have let their daughters hang out with Will (oh did I mention Tom was in law enforcement) Tom not only didn't turn his back on Will, Tom loved Will. Tom showed Will that people could still love and trust him and that a mistake is just a mistake if you make good and learn from that mistake. I think Tom's love and trust in Will is what is going to keep our Will more honest than even the love and trust we, his parents, have in Will. When Tom died in December Will who had not gone to a funeral of anyone whom he really loved because he just felt he couldn't went to Tom's.

There have been so many others over the last year and so many others over the last years who have died before 50. And when I remember them I remember them for the things that they did accomplish in their lives whether they died at 47 or 15. Each one made a contribution in a positive way. So - as I approach 50 I shall make a renewed promise to myself to do my very best to live each day in a positive way and when I leave this life I hope others will say, "she lived, she really lived."

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