This Thing Called Life

Dearly Beloved, We are gathered here today to get through this thing called “life.”
Prince — Let’s Go Crazy

When does one start thinking about their mortality?

I started this post a while back. It was a full night. Everyone was sleeping. I was watching random things on Youtube, 2 glasses of wine in. That night, we had Nathanael’s favorite meal for dinner: Korean BBQ.
While he was happily, gleefully, and joyfully going to town on the meats and the delicious jjigae (soup) my wife made, I looked at him, my heart and stomach so full, when these thoughts hit me:
When he gets to my age, what about his childhood will he remember?
Will he remember little moments like this, where my heart was just overflowing with gratitude and love having a meal with my family?
Or will he remember more of the negative parts of his childhood?
What will he see when he looks back on moments of his childhood?
How will he remember me once I’m gone?

I had sat on this half finished post for months, letting it percolate in my thoughts here and there. (I have so many unfinished posts sitting in my drafts. I’ll get to some of them, eventually).

But then the news of Kobe broke.
He, his daughter, and 7 other people lost their lives in a tragic helicopter crash.
(At the time of writing this, it’s been 2 days since his death and the Lakers vs. Clippers game that was planned for tonight has been postponed).

I had gone on ESPN.com like I normally do — more out of habit than anything else. Then I saw that red bar with “BREAKING NEWS” followed by the information that Kobe had died. I hit refresh. Then hit refresh once more. Then 2 more times — figuring they made a mistake and they’ll correct it at any given moment. But no. It didn’t change. The 1978-2020 wouldn’t go way. I sat their stunned. I’m glad that we had Royal Rumble to attend later in the day, otherwise I would’ve been glued to the TV and obsessing over all the details that would’ve trickled out.
I’m still stunned. I was never a huge Kobe fan. I grew up never liking the Lakers. But I knew he was a legend and would finish as the 3rd best NBA player ever (MJ; LBJ; KB — don’t @ me). He was the closest we will ever get to the second coming of MJ. This death hurt. The last time I felt like this over a death of a person I never met was Rachel Held Evans. But this one cut a bit deeper.
It was a painful reminder of how short and fragile life really, really is.

So when does one think about their mortality?

How often do we think about our mortality when we are young? It’s not a “normal” thing to do. We often do stupid things without thinking about the consequences then cringe in our 30’s about how stupid, careless, and reckless we were. My junior year in high school, we went to CA (from HI) to march in the Rose Bowl Parade. One of the students was sent home because she decided to balcony-hop to her friends room after curfew. That’s right. Jumping from balcony to balcony. But that kind of recklessness is associated with youthfulness, right?

I don’t know when I started to realize my mortality. I do know when I was starting to get old. I made a very well-known Seinfeld reference (NO SOUP FOR YOU!) to a youth student and they had no idea what I was referring to (circa 2005).
I knew I was getting old when rewatching kids’s movies and started to empathize with the parents.
No Ariel. You’re fricking 16. Stop being a spoiled brat and listen to your father.
No Kevin. You’re such a spoiled brat. Just listen to your mother and go to bed so you don’t miss your flight tomorrow.

But my mortality? I don’t know.
I do know that I became more aware of my limited time on this earth once we adopted Nathanael. I wonder about what he’s gonna do when we’re no longer here…
Will he be okay?
Will he be sufficient to survive on his own?
Will he be able to find a loving partner?
How will he remember us?

Hemingway once said:
Every man has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name.

I always associated this quote with the legacy we’ll leave behind.
Some folks may never experience the second death.

I assume as we get older, we’ll become more concerned — intentional — about the the legacy we will leave behind.
Just like how we want to be known, I think we all want to be remembered and remembered well.
I’ve noticed that a lot of pastors — when they’re near retirement — they start embarking on building projects. It’s a way to be remembered by that congregation, for sure.
We long to be remembered. And remembered well.

The stories that have been coming out about Kobe have been heartbreaking. He touched so many lives — and beyond the basketball courts. But it’s important to note that he has done harm too: his legacy involves sexual assault and that shouldn’t be something we sweep under the rug, as well.

Another big reminder that we are in control of our legacies.
We have a say in how we will be remembered — and for how long.

The best way to do that is to intentionally live well by intentionally loving well.

I am reminded that the temptation to fall into a lull with life — to take it for granted — is abundant. It’s easy to assume that we’ll be here tomorrow and so will everything else we love.
Resist the urge to take things for granted. If this weekend taught us anything it’s that life is incredibly short. And tragically fragile.
Be intentional in starting to build your legacy right now.
Don’t take life for granted. Don’t take the ones you love for granted.
Instead — may we live well by loving well.

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