Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
February 19, 2000

The death of a friend is like a "wake up" call

As we make our journey from the cradle to the grave, we learn to embrace the certainty of our own death. No one is passed over. The average of death is one per person.

The recent deaths of several friends has made me more keenly aware than ever that my time is coming. The bell will toll for me and for all those I hold dear. Death is relentless. That is why we call it "the Grim Reaper."

When we are young we don't think too much about dying. We think we are going to live forever. The future is before us and we have many "miles to go before we sleep."

Even when one of our peers dies young, in an accident perhaps, we figure that will never happen to us.

In later years our thoughts are different. We realize that the death of someone our own age "could have been me." Bob Baggott's sudden passing was like that for me. I was two days older than Bob. He would have been 68 on March 26.

When we were together Bob and I joked about our age. We did not "feel" old. We still had the energy to run circles around younger men. I saw Bob everywhere, full of life and enthusiasm, serving people in a hundred different ways. I admired Bob's "get up and go." I felt that if he could do it, I could too. And he felt the same way.

Then one morning the news came. Bob was gone, "in the twinkling of an eye." And the sobering thought hit me: you could go the same way, out like a light. No more sermons to preach. No more babies to baptize. No more time to hold my wife's hand and tell her how much she means to me. No more time to hug my sons and their wives. No more time to enjoy the sweet embrace of our precious grandchildren.

There is an awesome finality about death. Life is over, done, finished. All those piles of unfinished projects will be merely a nuisance to be quickly swept aside by those who remain. No more need for the "things to do" list. Letters and cards we had hoped to respond to will go unanswered. Sentiments we had planned to express will never be known by the people we had planned to write.

Forgive me if these thoughts sound gloomy or disturbing. That is not where I want to go with all this. I do want to "stab some people awake" who may be asleep at the switch of life. The death of a good friend or loved one can be like a "wake up" call. It can prompt us to re-order our priorities and begin earnestly to put "first things first."

It can cause us to stop our busy activities long enough to ask ourselves if we are paying attention to the real purpose of living. There are key questions that need to be asked: Am I spending my days doing things that benefit other people? Am I chasing the "almighty dollar" to the neglect of those who are dearest to me? Am I collecting things or building relationships?

If life is a warehouse, then collecting things is an acceptable goal. But if life is a journey, then accumulating "stuff" is not as important as friendships. What, at the last, do we want our children and friends to say about us? Do we want to be known for our toys or our deeds of love and mercy? Do we want to be remembered for our acquisitions or our achievements, for our collections or our character?

Imagine your children standing beside your grave on the day you are buried. What would you like to hear them say? "Dad was good with his hands" or "Dad always made you feel good about yourself." "Mom never missed a day at work" or "Mom showed us how to make a house a warm and loving home."

We may choose how we shall live -- but only as long as we have breath. So if you are breathing right now, decide how you want to live this day. Make the right choices today, for none of us can be certain of tomorrow!

Have a nice day!