Believing without a doubt in an afterlife, I look forward to knowing the answers to some elusive questions that have arisen in this life. Likewise, I have no doubt that I will get answers to questions I’ve never even thought to ask; I’ll learn about events in my life I never knew about–like the potato chip incident (from the prior post), if my mother hadn’t finally told me.
Others, I’m sure, are in for big surprises, too!
Someone I don’t know by name and saw only once when he was about six or so will be in for such a surprise, as will his parents, when they learn how my husband, totally anonymously, without any thanks or fanfare, likely saved the boy’s life one Saturday morning at a department store, when the child ended up—no adult guardian(s) in sight—on an exercise table with the bar (he somehow was strong enough to pull down) about to press on his little neck. In a flash, my husband lifted the bar, and the frightened child went running, without crying or saying a word–I assume–to his unknowing parent(s) or shopping trip guardian(s).
That incident was a lifesaving one I saw with my own eyes. Another one, involving me, was invisible to me. To this day, I would not have known about my involvement, unless the person whose life she said I spared had told me.
As part of my coursework to become a library media specialist, our professor assigned us, in teams, to report on an aspect of the biography of an educator-author. Another student and I chose to reflect and share on the chapter related to death. She because her brother had died when he was a teenager and she still, as a middle aged adult, was trying to reconcile her feelings with his death, and I—well, you know if you read the prior post, I’ve “always” thought about death.
Truthfully, if one of the other students hadn’t privately told me the next week about the impact my words had on her, I honestly wouldn’t likely even remember what I said. Apparently, I talked about how, no matter how many near-death experiences you have, you only get to die, really die, and never-come-back-to-life die, just once.
I said how the thought of that, in contrast to all the things we get to redo over and over again, made me realize that I hoped when the time came I would have the courage and the strength to die well. To die without screaming, kicking, delirious with fear and panic and protest, but that I would be resigned, at peace, that I would die a respectful death, not only for myself, but for my family and friends—for everyone who would know how my story came to an end.
Since I can only die once, I want to do it well.
Little did I know that that night, there sat among our colleagues one who had made a life-and-death decision, intending that weekend to end her life by overdosing.
“You saved my life,” she told me. “You said unlike so many other things in life that we can do more than once, birth and death are different. We get to do each only once. You said that you had made a decision. Since you got to die only once, you wanted to do it well. And I thought about myself and my family, and I knew I couldn’t let my life end that way. I knew I couldn’t kill myself.”
Sorry to say that after our certification program ended, I lost track of her. When I think of my own death, I think of her, grateful that she said those words back to me, so that I can better keep them in mind, praying for both of us that when the time comes, we can die well, and in the meantime, we can live well—to live a life worthy, to paraphrase St. Paul, of the calling we both, individually and collectively, have received.
By your kindness, by your words, by your encouragement, whose “life,” physical, emotional, or spiritual, do you think, have you enriched–and remarkably, perhaps, even saved?