What I Learned From a Stranger’s Death

woman on train and yellow field
While I know that tomorrow is not promised, I don’t always really feel that. This year I do, and I don’t like it.

Not long ago, I visited a local museum for the first time. A portion of the museum is a dedicated area for children, with a pretend grocery store, ambulance and police station. A group of chattering kids played inside as their parents stood by, seemingly relieved that their youngsters were temporarily occupied.

As I left that part of the museum, I noticed on a nearby wall a portrait of a beautiful young woman with a kind smile. Upon closer inspection, I learned the woman was Lori Brock, the museum’s namesake. At first, I wondered if the benefactress had chosen to display a picture of her younger self out of vanity, but then I noticed the inscription beneath the portrait — “1949-1972.”

Curious, I did an online search to find out what had happened to Lori Brock. An old newspaper clipping revealed the answer: As a 22-year-old, Ms. Lorilee (Lori) Brock had been killed in a car accident.

Following their daughter’s death, Lori’s parents had given a large donation to the museum’s building fund, but the article reported that Lori had also been a philanthropist. The following words caught my attention:

“Early in her education she was recognized as an exceptionally fine person and a true leader. She had the capacity to make every person feel a sense of his own worth, and she brought out the best in everyone with whom she came in contact.”

As I reread those sentences, the description of Lori Brock’s character touched me. What an amazing thing to have said about you! She made everyone feel valuable. She helped others see their worth. She brought out the best in people.

Numbering my days

I’m really feeling my mortality this year. Since this time last year, a friend my age passed away from a very fast battle with cancer. Several people I know lost their lives suddenly in accidents. And the Coronavirus has already claimed thousands of lives, with more deaths being reported each day. While I know that tomorrow is not promised, I don’t always really feel that. This year I do, and I don’t like it.

But as I’ve thought about what God wants me to learn through this realization, I’m reminded of Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” When we realize that this life is so temporary in the grand scheme of things, it should cause us to focus on living for what truly matters in the time God gives us.

Am I spending mindless hours scrolling on my phone when I could be in a meaningful conversation that lifts someone up? Do I get derailed from important service by minor irritations that don’t really matter in light of eternity? Am I taking every opportunity to love people well and tell the lost about Jesus?

Making my life count

Since that visit to the museum, I have continued to think about Lori Brock. How her life ended too soon. How her parents must have been heartbroken to lose her. How much more she could have accomplished and contributed to society had she lived to old age. But then I realized something: 48 years after her death, her legacy of goodness lives on.

It lives on in the joy of the children playing in the museum her parents helped build even as they grieved. It lives on in local college scholarships still offered in her name. It certainly lives on in those schoolmates, friends and family members who felt more worthy and valuable because she made them feel that way. And it lives on in me, a stranger whom she inspired to live intentionally.

The news article concluded on this note of praise: “Lori Brock was an active and interested person, dedicated to others; she would serve as a perfect model for children growing up today.”

I hope that I, too, am an “active and interested” person who makes everyone feel valuable. I pray I am influencing others to live lives of service to God that bring out the best in others. Today I am inspired to be a better person by a woman I never met. Thank you, Lori Brock.

Copyright 2020 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, who is a family pastor, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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