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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Aurora and the Unknown of Tomorrow

Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Couey 

It was a festive occasion, the first showing of a long-awaited motion picture.  People had gathered, some waiting in line for several hours.  Part of the crowd had donned costumes in honor of the event.  When the doors opened, they filed into the theater, probably talking and laughing in that giddy atmosphere of friendship and anticipation of good times shared.  But within minutes, everything changed.  In an act of unspeakable and unimaginable violence, lives were ended; others changed forever.

The impact of that event spread well beyond the walls of that particular theater auditorium.  The hell that sprung into being for the victims was shared within minutes by their families.  

The evening didn’t start that way.  I’m certain there were many who were swept up in the routine of life that evening, having no idea that their parting would turn out to be their final goodbye.

To lose a loved one to an act of violence has to be one of the most painful experiences a human can endure.  There never seems to be a satisfactory answer to the question: “why?”  There is only the overwhelming feeling of loss. 

We share their heartache. But I don’t think any one of us can fully comprehend the depth of their loss.  Grief is a journey; a difficult, yet cathartic path strewn with rocks and potholes.  But it is a journey that must be taken.  There are no shortcuts or bypasses on the route to healing.  Sadly, there is nothing we can do to assuage their sorrow; nothing except accompany them on their walk, and help them to know that they do not walk alone.

And that we will never forget.

Life is fragile; the future an ever-shifting fog that defies predictability.  What we take for granted today could vanish without a trace tomorrow.  As we saw on 9/11, and again in Aurora, Colorado, lives can change in an instant, and utterly without warning.

As the news of the tragedy spread across the country, I suspect that nearly all of us were visited by the same feelings of shock, disbelief and sadness.  In the midst of our deep political and cultural divisions, we found a moment of unity in a shared sense of vulnerability.

In the days since, I have found my thoughts turning not to politics or ideology or even theology.  Instead, my mind was drawn to the surviving families of those who were lost.  Those families were immersed that day in a nightmare from which they will never awake.  For them, an emptiness, a painful inarticulate loss exists that will never again be filled; an open wound that can never really heal.

Given the sheer randomness of such and act, even a slight re-shuffling of the cards and it could have happened to any of us.  

We leave each other every day, for work, for errands, for play.  Yet, do any of us even give a second’s consideration to the possibility that this time may be the last time?  In the 4th chapter of the Book of James, we are told, 

"Whereas you know not what shall be tomorrow.
For what is your life?
It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time,
and then vanishes away."
We all take life for granted, both ours and the ones we love.  None of us knows the day or event by which we will eventually pass from this existence.  I think, therefore, the most important personal lesson from July 20th, 2012 is the importance of today; of taking the time to treasure the moments and the people who touch our lives. 
So today, I will remember the husbands and wives, the brothers and sisters, parents and children who suffered loss on that day.  
Today, I will tell my wife what a gift she has been to me;
Today, I will tell my children how special and precious they are.
Today I will remember my parents and the sacrifices they made.
Today, I will tell my best friend what his friendship has meant to me.
Today, I will seek out a stranger and make a friend.
Today, I will seek out one with whom I’ve shared anger and make peace.
Today, I will enjoy my life and treasure every moment as if it were my last.
I will do all these things today and not wait for later.
Because life is fragile -- and fleeting.
And who knows what could happen tomorrow?

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