Sudden Death

Last week, actor James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) died suddenly at age 51 from a heart attack. It’s an especially heart-wrenching story because it happened in front of his 13-year-old son Michael, in a hotel in Rome, where they’d been having a father-son vacation.

I can relate, up to a point. I wasn’t a child when my dad died, but I was 19. A couple hours earlier, he drove me to a college class. I got a ride home and found he’d collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage. He never woke up. There was no warning: At age 58, he was gone.

God can bring good from loss. From mine, he gave me clarity, maturity and resolve. My mom and I have been close ever since, whether I’ve lived in the same town (like now) or far away. We talk all the time: If anything, I tend to talk her ears off. Once in a while, she even gets a few words in. (Yes, I’m exaggerating. How much, you’d have to ask her.) For the past 32 years, we’ve treasured the time. Whenever it ends, we’ll have no regrets about how it was spent.

When you’re young, you don’t really think that something like this might happen to your parents for a long time. You know it’s possible, but it seems so remote. You have plenty of time.

Except maybe you don’t.

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

This isn’t mainly a post about death. It’s about life — life in the shadow of death. Even as you look toward eternal life through Christ, cherish the gift of life God gives you on earth, and the people He gives you to live it with. They really can be gone tomorrow. Don’t learn that lesson the hard way.