The Brevity of Life

Posted on January 6, 2010 by Blake Leath

A dear friend wrote to me earlier this week describing the tragic and unrelated deaths of two teenage boys in his hometown, both of which occurred as the result of automobile accidents over the holidays.  A third teenager, a girl, lost her leg while trying to beat a train.

Yesterday, around 3pm, a precious 12-year-old boy lost his life in yet another automobile accident as he returned home from school, not 2 miles from here.

As my wife and I struggled last night to wrap our heads around such inexplicable, gut-wrenching, and unfathomable losses, we did all we know to do in such circumstances: pray.  What else can one do?  There is no consolation for such grief.  It simply is. 

While hot meals, attentiveness, big ears, hearts, and hugs may slightly mollify -- they are feeble attempts to do the impossible.  But we all do them anyway, because we know of no other substantive ways to help and because they are part of the acts of the human condition which accompany the grieving process.

We lost our own son on January 4, 2006 of complications from trisomy 18 but, however horrific this loss, we never heard Will laugh or cry, never saw him run or jump or fall in love.  To lose a child whom one has put to bed on countless nights, whose sweaty forehead one has kissed, whose warm hand one has squeezed on long walks...I cannot comprehend it.

As our little family visited Will's gravesite in the cold and blowing wind on Monday night, we said our prayers.

And in returning to the car, the tombstone of a 12-year-old boy caught my eye.  On it was inscribed the children's epitaph known as "I Am Not Here."  I leave you with it today, along with the gentle reminder: Life is short.  Tell those you love that you love them and make the most of every minute of every day.

Don't stand by my grave and weep,
For I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint of snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning, hush.
For I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circle flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die.