Our online faculty meeting hit all the usual markers of a faculty meeting: it was long and back-crackingly boring. The bosses kept the microphones busy while the rest of us closely followed the conversation in the chat section to pick up on any sarcasm, underhanded vengeance and fundamentally bland jokes.
I’m pretty awesome, Mary typed after the boss praised her work.
Well…maybe not so awesome, she typed again when the praise unexpectedly turned to criticism.
Pride comes before the fall, hey Mary, Frank said in jest.
🤣, said the rest of us.
When the marathon torture session adjourned, we all scattered in our directions. A few hours later, we received another e-mail from our boss: Frank had died in a car crash about an hour after our meeting had ended.
I didn’t know Frank that well. I mean, we studied law together and worked together but we studied in different languages, he was much younger than me, our departments are seated in different buildings and we have almost no mutual friends. But he was a good guy. Tall, athletic, beautiful blue eyes, took great pride in his work.
He had worked on his PhD for a long time, but he would have submitted his thesis in a few months…just in time to properly celebrate his wedding in November. His dream was to own a home and to fill that home with kids and cats…
In my weaker moments, I can be selfish. Today was a weaker moment. Since most of my loved ones have passed, I’ve often wondered why I’ve been left behind. While Frank’s death had nothing on Earth to do wit me, I wondered that again today. Why Frank and not me? He had such a wonderful career and life ahead of him. He would have been a great dad, a great academic and a great mentor. While I don’t think my life is without value, I do think that in the Great Game he was winning the race and I was getting tired…
There is a very thin line between life and death. I was reminded of that today. It’s not really a line either, it’s a delicate sheet of tissue paper that separates the realities. Your position on this side of the tissue paper can change with a single step. A moment.
As much as I try to live my life by faith, on my weaker days it feels as though we are all standing like puppets across the face of the planet while a large hand slams down randomly on the puppets. Today it was a husband-and-dad-to-be. Earlier it was a 100 year old man who walked his way to millions of pounds for the health care system of his country. Before that was the young mom who gave birth to her first baby girl three months before dying of leukemia. Then there’s the little boy…the grandmother…the teacher…the writer…the teenage girl…the lover…the friend.
And here I am. Alive. Alive, but so quick on the trigger to discharge complaints. I have life when so many do not. I moaned and groaned in your ears about my broken ankle, yet tomorrow morning I might wake up again, healthy. I’ll drink coffee and answer my crazy friends’ texts. I’ll think of Frank. I’ll do the laundry. I’ll play with my cats and then shout at them for scratching the red wax out of me. I’ll probably eat too much ice cream.
The old cliché is true: life is a gift. But it’s a gift that not all of us unwrap completely and it’s a gift that must be returned.
When it comes my turn to give back this precious, precious gift, I hope I return it in the worst possible condition: tired and used and scratched from too much wear and tear. I don’t want to live like I’m that precious set of porcelain plates that is only used when the minister comes to visit. I want to be a tall coffee mug with a few chips and a bunch of stains. So that when I bump into people like Frank in Heaven, he can say: now that was worth it.
Tonight, I’m having a large chococino on Frank…