The Bible says life is but a vapor. When I ponder eternity, of course 50 or 60 or even 90 years seems like a mere breath. I think of blowing out warm breath on a cold morning. How quickly that vapor vanishes. That is my temporal life to our Father.
In the past week, my thoughts have been drawn to the brevity of life. Eight days ago, 32 young people who thought their lives were only beginning suddenly faced the end of human life. A couple days later, a vibrant, seemingly healthy man in our church suffered a sudden heart attack. By the end of the week, he had died. One Sunday I was shaking his hand, the next I was mourning his empty spot two pews in front of me. Life is a vapor.
At various times in my life, I have been struck by the brevity of life.
In college, a dear friend was diagnosed with cancer. Strong, handsome, a picture of health, at the height of his baseball career. Cancer. God brought him through and healed him, but his battle reminded all of us that life is a vapor.
Another young friend suddenly dead. A freak farming accident. We had become friends at 4-H camp. Laughing and singing and joking together. Never did I dream he wouldn’t return to camp.
Another beautiful 4-H friend. I remember her deep laugh and big smile. I can still see her sparkling eyes and hear her sing. She was 19 or 20 when she made a foolish decision, drove drunk, and crashed her car. She died instantly.
Recently, a preschooler in our community died of cancer.
Right now, all over my town is the message “Grow cells grow” for a little 6 year-old who is waiting for the new cells from his bone marrow transplant to engraft. Six years old and fighting for life.
Even though there are so many reminders, it is easy to forget. Easy to forget that we are not promised tomorrow.
The night before the killings at Virginia Tech, my husband and I had a disagreement. I can count on my fingers the number of times we have gone to bed upset with each other, and that night was one of those rare occasions. Monday morning as he left for work, our goodbyes were icy cold. After he got to work, he called to say “I’m sorry,” and I grunted out an “I’m sorry” in return. But we still did not have warm, fuzzy feelings and sweet fellowship. At 10:15 that morning, he called to say there was possibly a gunman loose on campus and he was in lock-down in his office, which is in a research park attached to campus. As my heart raced and I begged him to stay away from all the windows, I thought how foolish we had been to part from each other without making things right first.
Throughout the day, I wondered how many of the 32 who died had left unfinished business in the relationships in their lives. Oh, I hope none of them. But if someone had walked into my husband’s office early that morning and started shooting, the last word I spoke to my husband would have been an icy goodbye.
Life is a vapor.
Remember the man I mentioned? The man in my church who had the sudden heart attack last week? His wife is an excellent example of living in the moment. Her first husband died suddenly. She nursed a sister through cancer and cared for her until she died. This woman understands the brevity of life. I am certain she left nothing unsaid with her husband. I am certain she has no regrets. This is the woman who sees the perfect gift for someone and buys it and gives it to them 6 months early because anything could happen before their actual birthday. She lives fully and loves freely. She laughs a lot. She gives generously. Her husband lived the same way. They are an example to me.
I want this lesson to stick with me this time. Life is short. I cannot take tomorrow for granted. I’m hugging more and telling friends and family that I love them. I just never know when that handshake or hug might be the last. I never know when that goodbye might be the last. I don’t want it to be icy or indifferent or half-hearted.