I held a dead man’s hand today. It was the first time we shook hands. A sheriff later told me that his name was Raymond. No matter how hard we tugged, we couldn’t pull him out of the water. It was only through great effort that we got anything at all beyond his fingertips above the swift moving river. In the end, we had to give up least anyone else get hurt or dragged underneath.
We let him go and clambered ashore. The river claimed Raymond. There was no sign of him at all. You couldn’t see him from the rocks immediately above. Even when the emergency personal arrived and swarmed along the riverbank, the only audible sound was the rush of water moving along, uneffected by the dead man stuck in the rocks. His friend cried and shook nearby, but it was the only evidence that Raymond was there or that he had died.
After they pulled him out, Eric and I went to a coffee shop to sort ourselves out. The other customers talked and visited with each other while we reflected on a man’s death. They were as ignorant and uncaring as the river itself. And why should they be any different? Even Eric and I felt no sense of loss or mourning. We hadn’t known the guy, why should we care? I don’t know, but it seems to me that a normal human should at least feel something.
This sentiment was proved by the people close to me who I felt the need to inform. My wife was shaken and scared, my parents were horrified, and Dane spoke in somber tones when I called each of them in turn. What is wrong with me? I went home, kissed my kids, and ate a slice of pie. Work called me in, blissful and needy in their ignorance.
As I swept, vacuumed, and wiped things down, the vision of Raymond plunging happily over the waterfall returned to me. All that followed: the panicked splashing, the desperate rescue attempt, the wailing of Ram, the bitter tears in Zach’s eyes, the unending roar of the river, it all came back to me clearly.
I’ve always preferred swimming in the river to a pool or lake. The river is alive. If you would enjoy it, you must struggle with it. The danger is ever present, and it is part of the river’s appeal to me. I doubt that will change. Live without struggle is just a stagnant pool of water and slime.
This episode may serve as nothing more to me than a reminder of what life is really like: dangerous and unpredictable. No matter how many people have taken the path before you, there is no guarantee of your success or safety. When the end comes, it often comes violently fast. And the great likelihood is that there will be very few people who notice that you are gone at all. So what then?
Make life count. And be ready.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. – Hebrews 9:27-28