Prepare for Departure

“It is appointed for men to die once…”  Hebrews 9:27

I’ve been meditating on mortality – not in a morbid way, but in the way of embracing reality. You see, someone I love gradually is disengaging from life.

This someone gave me life and a love for books, afternoon newspapers, AME church liturgy, homemade meals, Roll Tide football, nightly news with Peter Jennings, “Paul Harvey… Good day” radio, the music of Ella Fitzgerald and Dave Brubeck, the comedy records of Moms Mabley and Perry Como Christmas shows.

Always a whirlwind, she is now silent and still.

I phoned her Florida nurses last night to ask if she is responsive. “I’m not allowed to say,” I was told. “You’ll have to call back.”


Two nights ago I sat bedside with a friend at the Raleigh hospital where she’d had breast cancer surgery. She made me laugh. I didn’t get to return the favor.  It hurt her to laugh back.

I fully expect her to recover and our decades-long friendship to continue until we both are round and wrinkled. Still, as we sat alternately silent and joking, it occurred to me that life is fragile and fleeting and fatal.

My mind went back to Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in the “Mountaintop” speech that would be his last: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

He was killed the next day.

Living well, however long life lasts, is a worthy goal. Departure is certain. Make your destination sure.

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