Yesterday a high school junior from Fennville Michigan died.
When a child dies we weep at the seeming injustice. Under ‘normal’ circumstances this would be considered an awful and terrible tragedy because we all know that high school juniors are not supposed to die, they somehow are immune to death because they are ‘young’. Under normal circumstances this news might merit some local media coverage. But not CNN.
What makes this death sobering and utterly tragic is that the young man who died yesterday was a gifted, highly talented athlete, who just scored the winning basket in OT, in order that his team would finish the regular season undefeated, 20-0… perfect.
As the buzzer sounded, and as the fans swarmed the young man – as they hoisted him up on their shoulders in triumph and victory – he collapsed immediately and went into sudden cardiac arrest. He departed this world seconds later. From a moment of sheer jubilation to the sobs and sorrows of a gym filled with friends, fans, and a mother and father holding the body of their lifeless son… saying “What?” “How?” and “Why? In some ways this story reminds me of another tragic death of another high school star that I posted on some time ago, but this story of Wes Leonard last night , unlike that story I posted before, this was not an act of stupidity at some unsupervised drunken spring break party, nor did this young man make a poor decision in driving his car, nor did he die from drugs… he was simply a kid, a very talented kid, playing basketball. He was in prime of life. A teen, who just led his team to victory, and now he now lays lifeless upon a wooden floor… But God speaks to us and reminds us that, ‘man does not know the length of our days’, for we are indeed but a vapor, and from dust we have come and to dust certainly each of us shall return. So what can we learn?
Dear God teach us to number our days aright.
From a winning basket that secured a ‘perfect’ season, the utter heights of euphoria, to a shattered reality of the messiness of living life in this broken and fallen world – a gifted young man collapses unconscious upon the very floor where seconds earlier he gained victory – and along with the tears and sobs, we hear God saying, “Wake up, be ready.” Dear Lord have mercy upon him, shower him and all near to him with Your love, and grant healing to his grieving parents, his family, friends and community. Have mercy upon his soul. Grant him eternal life, and let Your everlasting light shine upon him.
Lord, why is it that I live each day as if I will live forever? And yet the tragic death of this young man reminds me that every moment, every breath I take is a gift. There are no guarantees, no certainties, no promises that I will live here forever. I am reminded in the story of this young man’s life, that at any moment I too will stand before the throne of God… and eternity will stare me in the face. At that moment will He know me? Will He recognize me? Will He see in me the gift of faith, received in the Church by grace? Will He say, “Welcome home, good faithful servant?”
What matters is not what I know, or how much I’ve earned, or what title I have on my office door: but what matters most, in fact the only thing that matters, is the answer to one question: “Who do you say that I AM?” Of the millions of questions we answer in life, none is more important than this one. And here is the right answer:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
Lord have mercy on me, upon all of us, and teach us to live this day and each day, in light of the truth that we will live forever either in the reality of your presence or in the utter horror of being banished and separate from You. There is no middle place.
O Master, Lord our God, Who in Thy wisdom hast created man, and didst honor him with Thy Divine image, and place in him the spirit of life, and lead him into this world, bestowing on him the hope of resurrection and life everlasting; and after he had violated Thy commandments, Thou O Gracious lover of mankind, didst descend to the earth that Thou mightest renew again the creation of Thy hands. Therefore we pray Thee, O All-Holy Master give rest to the souls of Thy servant, Wes, in a place of brightness, a place of green pasture, a place of repose, and, in that they have sinned in word, or deed or thought forgive them: For Thou art a good God and lovest mankind and unto Thee do we ascribe Glory, together with Thy Father, Who is from everlasting and Thine All-Holy and good, and ever giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen