by Father Frank Mann
Recently, a segment from a news story jolted my attention: Dallas billionaire Charles Wyly, whose fortune helped reshape the Dallas Arts District was killed in a car crash in Colorado.
Wyly, 77, had stopped at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport to buy a newspaper and was trying to turn his Porsche left onto a highway about 11 a.m. when another car broadsided him. He was declared dead at a hospital about an hour later, according to the Colorado State Patrol.
Wyly’s surprisingly sudden and unexpected death was a vibrant catalyst for some rather personal, riveting reflections on the meaning and purpose of it all. My musings were unquestionably enhanced and refined by the fact that here was someone who unquestionably had it all: Ironically, all his wealth could not save him from such an untimely and tragic fate.
It is unquestionable that so many of us go through life thinking that we have an infinite allotment of time. We become likewise highly proficient at playing games which deceive ourselves into believing that we have a bountiful continuance for postponing this or that because the horizon appears to be so limitless.
What I often find alarmingly unnerving about life, however, is that it is so very unpredictable and dauntingly brief. From a solely human perspective, there is a perplexing uncertainty and insecurity about everything. None of us really know for sure how much time we have as we journey this fragile, mortal life.
Certainly, anything can happen to anyone at any moment. It is not my intention to sound morbid. But let’s face it: do we truly know what the next hour or minute (or if we are blessed with tomorrow) will ultimately unravel? It would appear realistic to say that even those chronologically longest lives are, de facto, the shortest. After all, how impressive is 100 years in the span of all human history? It is certain that our lives are not as set in stone as we’d often envision (or desire).
Recently, while waiting to officiate at a gravesite service at a cemetery in Queens, I decided to pass some time with a meditative stroll. I had been pondering about this short span of ours here on earth and how that exactly translates into what life is all about. (Often, walks in cemeteries escort me to a place of deep reflection within my soul).
Gestures Imbued with Purpose
Suddenly something caught my eye in what seemed to appear as an unexpected answer to my pondering of the eternal verities. Emblazoned on two outdoor mausoleums were the words, “Have faith in God and help other people.” I had never seen anything like that on a gravestone. At that rather humbling and graced moment, it seemed certain that every relationship in this life could be defined as uniquely “sacred.” Likewise, all of our loving gestures and thoughts are invigorated with a wondrous blessing imbued with eternal meaning and purpose.
Is not the hallmark of our being here that we try to advance in the growth of grace by trying to do our best in touching the heart of another? Is not our reason for this sojourn found in those profound, daily strivings that try to make a genuine difference in the lives of others? (albeit for all created life?)
When we walk by faith and open ourselves to “the other” in the profoundly present moment of our lives, we enter into the glorious mystery of the transcendent.
When we walk with hope and trust in our God, we abundantly declare ourselves as vibrantly connected to the community of all creation made in His image and likeness.
In the face of the variant uncertainties and insecurities of life, God calls each of us to be both transformed and transforming. As His sanctified healers, we are guided by those sincere and tender gestures that uniquely aid in the mitigation of so much suffering found throughout the world community.
We all need to perhaps ask ourselves some pressing questions: who or what may we be neglecting in our lives or likewise taking for granted? We need to move beyond the boundaries of our narrow, personal worlds, in an emboldened pursuit to become champions for the precious miracle of life itself.
Unquestionably, the recognition and acceptance of the reality found in the fragility of that life should challenge us to an authentic and qualitative change in becoming more attentive to the details of those things that truly matter and last.