Perplexities of Life
Monday was a day of contemplation. I attended the funeral a 95 year old attorney in Lincoln. There were several prominent people at the church service.
The departed was eulogized by his 95 year old classmate from kindergarten through high school as well as his doctor and attorney sons. The crux of the eulogies was that the departed had served his family, his friends and the community through a long and productive life. The key term was “long life” well lived. It was an impressive and inspirational service.
On the drive back to Clinton, my mind kept returning to the tragic events of this past weekend. A fourteen year old Clinton High School girl lost her life and her friend was injured in an ATV accident. I then realized this is the second Clinton High School student to lose their life in a vehicle accident this year. The other death being a 16 year old boy in a car wreck.
Their lives were cut short before they ever reached adulthood. What of their dreams and potential. All of that end3ed abruptly in two tragic accidents. The Lincoln lawyer had almost completed 10 decades of life. The two teenagers from Clinton did not even complete two decades.
My thoughts then went to a family trip to Wisconsin when I was a young boy to visit my mother’s older sister and her family. My mother’s niece was present with her new baby. The baby was fussy and my Dad was volunteered to hold the baby as he walked. My father noticed the baby becoming almost stiff and not acting like a normal child who is sick. Dad suggested his mother take the baby to the doctor as something appeared very wrong. The baby was taken to the hospital and admitted. The child would die that night from meningitis.
We extended our stay in Wisconsin to attend the funeral. I had been to the funerals of both my grandmother and grandfather. Those made sense to me in that they were, to my young mind, old people and old people die. The funeral in Wisconsin was for a very young child. That made no sense to me.
Sixty years later I am still perplexed by this perceived, in human eyes, unfairness. The natural progression is that you grow old and your children bury you, not that you die young and your parents bury you as a child. My mother sought to help me understand the issues of life and death, but the issue of fairness always seemed to override my thought process.
Over the years I have had many philosophical and theological discussions from lay persons to doctoral level clergy. I have come to my own resolution of the debate, which some may find offensive and harsh, but I believe the analysis following is workable and for that reason it resolves the perplexity of the issue, at least for me.
I personally adhere to a Judeo-Christian belief in a Creator God whose knowledge and wisdom is infinite. We are the created beings and have only a finite understanding of this thing called Creation. We are promised only the moment we live in; not a second, a day, a month or years more, only the present. Our control of our lives is only in the immediate present. We do not know what the future brings. This is not to say we shouldn’t plan for the future, only there is no guarantee of a future. I used to be a control freak, and still have a tendency to revert to that model. It was only when I acknowledged to myself that much of living in this world encompasses matters beyond my physical control that I gained mental and emotional peace. We cannot change what has occurred and we can only plan for the future knowing that such plans are subject to change by other events and powers.
Creation means there is an infinite grand plan for what has been created. Our minds are finite and incapable of truly understanding infinity, i.e. the Creator. Our finite ideals of fairness and justness pale in a Creator planned infinite universe.
We can only hold on to the memories of those who have departed this life before us. We may have the memories of an aging parent who has served his family and community well. We may have the memories of a vibrant teenager who was full of enthusiasm and joy. We can cherish the memories of what the departed person was to us as that is the reality of life as we experienced it. No one can take away those cherished times and memories. We may not be able to understand the plan for this world, but it is a greater force than any of us who is in charge. I am content to accept the Plan of a Creator, as that is the only way that I can make sense of this world.
The funeral in Lincoln closed with an instrumental of the song “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” That song has tremendous meaning if we only surrender to a plan that is greater than our finite minds can understand.