Death is rude, isn’t it? Even when we do all that we can to prepare for the passing of a loved one, there is still a starkness to death’s coming. Maybe because it seems to always come in the night . . . maybe it’s the sense of finality that comes crashing down upon us . . . maybe it’s the grim reminder that life here is not meant forever, not even for us.
It is especially hard to accept an early, untimely death. When friends or family members die who are seventy, eighty, or ninety years old, we may be in deep grief and miss them very much, but we are grateful that they had long lives. We get it, so to speak. There is some measure of understanding.
But when a teenager, a young adult, or a person at the height of his or her career dies, we feel a protest rising from our hearts: “Why? Why so soon? Why so young? It is unfair.”
My grief is sometimes compounded with embarrassment. I don’t have the words to express appropriate sympathy, much less any measure of understanding. As a minister I’m supposed to have the words, the “right thing” to say. But more often I know more of silence than I do of sound.
I know it doesn’t suffice, but this I do believe. Far more important than our quantity of years is the quality of our lives.
Jesus died young.
St. Francis died young. St. Thérèse of Lisieux died young, Martin Luther King, Jr., died young.
We do not know how long we will live, but this not knowing calls us to live every day, every week, every year of our lives to its fullest potential.