Last week was a week of well publicized deaths in the world. First of course there was the agonizing watch on the end of life that was Terri Schiavo's. Then of course came Pope John Paul's death on Saturday.
As has been said many times before, no one escapes death. Once someone is alive, they have to face the prospects of death during their entire existence.
When I turned 40, I remember that at the family birthday celebration my oldest son, who was 16 at the time told me "Gee dad I never want to be 40 and old like you." In reaction, I kind of smiled at him and said, "Well son, you have two choices at this point in your life. You can either someday be 40 and old like me, or you can be dead. Which would you chose?"
Choice, however is what we seldom have about death. And while on an airplane in travel for a business last Thursday another thought crossed my mind. Each of us, regardless of our socio-economic status, our profession, our religion or our lifestyle habits, place our lives in the hands of others much of the time. Here's what I mean.
I flew on commercial aircraft extensively in the 1990s on business, but I had not gone on an airline since 9-11 until last weeks flight. Obviously, for everyone who flies now, that day in September four years ago has to run through their minds at least once before or during a flight. I know it was stuck in the recesses of my head on Thursday.
During the flight I was looking around the cabin at the other passengers I could see from my seat in the rear of the plane, wondering about their lives, where they were coming from, where they were going, etc. Behind me was a man reading a pamphlet and he was holding it up so I was able to see the name on the cover. It had to do with certifying for commercial multi-engine aircraft operation. For some reason that gave me comfort, knowing that there was someone besides the guys in the cockpit that knew at least something about flying the plane. I guess I have just seen too many movies where something happens to a flight crew and some guy from the cabin that just learned how to fly an ultralight comes up and lands the plane perfectly, saving all on board.
But what this brought to mind for me is how our lives are like little threads that are often in the hands of others. A plane ride is an obvious choice for explaining this, because each persons life is dependent on the specials skills of the pilot. But there are a lot more examples too: riding in a car with someone, having someone hold a ladder for you while you paint a ceiling, or even having someone at a fast food joint making your hamburger. The list is endless.
The threads of life are thin and they are impacted by almost everyone around each of us in some way or another. Those threads can be easily snapped by a bad decision, another persons ineptness or even a direct result of an overt act. Becaue of that we need to hold on to those we love tightly every time we see them, because no one knows what can happen.
How fragile it all is.