“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
— Frederick Buechner
A healthy 19-year old man from a nearby town died unexpectedly a few days ago after an accident while hiking in the woods. I didn’t know this young man (let’s call him Brian) or his family, but his death has sent ripples through my life. For many of the high school students here, this tragedy represents their first personal experience with death and the lesson is shocking. We are all temporary. Life is delicate. Anything can happen.
So we are all in the same boat, so to speak. None of us knows who will wake up tomorrow and who won’t. What are we to do and how are we to live, given the tenuous nature of our lives and the lives of our loved ones?
Death opens our hearts and helps us to remember to be kind. At least it can. That is why we use the name “Thirty Thousand Days” for this blog and for our quarterly publication. Not to be morbid or preoccupied with death, but to be joyful and appreciative of every day we are given.
So in honor of Brian, I will offer 19 gestures of kindness to the world — one for each year of his life. Whose death, or recent hardship, has touched your life? I invite you to join me in making symbolic but meaningful gestures of love and kindness, in the face of death and in the shadow of tragedy.
After my cousin was killed in the World Trade Center, his family channeled their sorrow and loss into a positive funnel of support for others by creating the Let Us Do Good Foundation. We need to respond to the tragedies that touch us with as much heart as we can muster. Then they were not for naught – something positive grew that may not have grown otherwise.
Buechner’s words offer some comfort and guidance for all of us:
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“When you remember me, it means you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.”