Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Uncertainty of Life

But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' (Luke 12:20)

Perhaps it is because the crash of Comair Flight 5191 took place in Lexington, Kentucky, that the media coverage—print, radio, and TV—seems to be non-stop. Each press conference, whether held by the National Transportation Safety Board, the physicians caring for the one survivor at the University of Kentucky Hospital, or some local government official, is covered by the media live and then replayed again and again in its whole or in segments. It is as if people cannot get enough information—or, is it that the media can’t collect enough information?

Almost the entire front page of today’s Louisville Courier-Journal addressed the crash of Comair Flight 5191. Among the numerous articles, one gave details not only identifying the victims, but also discussing the how they spent their last hours before dying in last Sunday morning’s fiery crash and their plans and hopes for a future than will never be.

As I read that article I began to feel as though I was peeking into other people’s windows. All of the profiles of the victims were heartrending, from the couple who had been married Saturday night and were beginning their honeymoon trip that morning to the young woman departing for school away from her home. A couple were ironic, such as the man who would not have been on Comair Flight 5191 had his flight the night before not be canceled.

These glimpses into the lives of the folks who died in such a tragic and unforeseen manner reminded me again how uncertain our lives are. I am certain that no one aboard Comair Flight 5191 expected to die last Sunday morning. Some may have been anxious about flying—I usually am—but I do not believe that anyone truly expected the plane to crash. Rather, I suspect that each person aboard Comair Flight 5191 had plans and expectations for the future—plans and expectations that will never be realized.

I write this not from a sense of morbidity but as a reminder to myself to live each day to the fullest, as if it may be my last day. I do that too little. Albert Einstein wrote: There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

I hope that I am able to live each day I have left in this life realizing and celebrating its miraculous wonder.


  1. Good advice Nick. Too bad it always takes a catastrophe to make us realize this. I wonder why that is?

  2. Well said, if we don't enjoy our lives, who will? ec

  3. MOst of the time my life seems so routine I seldom thing about enjoying it. I wonder what I would do if I knew when I would die?

  4. I agree with Einstein.

  5. Or, as The Grassroots put it: "Sha la la la la la, live for today." :o)

  6. LYNN: I think that it takes trauma and catastrophe to awaken/remind us of the tentative nature of life. There is a line in a prayer that I often use when I officiate a funeral that goes: “We gather here…conscious of others who have died and of the frailty of our own existence on earth.”

    I believe that when death or distress strikes others, it breaks into our normal routine and we become conscious, if for a moment, of the “frailty of our own existence.”

    MREDDIE: Thank you. Unfortunately, I know too many people who do not enjoy their own lives, even though most of them don’t realize that they don’t.

    ABBY: I believe you hit the key word: “routine.” As I wrote to Lynn (above), “when death or distress strikes others, it breaks into our normal routine and we become conscious, if for a moment, of the ‘frailty of our own existence.’”

    Albert Camus, in “The Stranger”, addressed the issue of what one would do if he/she knew the time of their impending death: he called it “the freedom of the condemned man.” (Sic.)

    AZSONOFAGUN: I do, too.

    THOMAS: Amen!

  7. That Einstein quote is on the wall in my office. Hi, Nick :)

  8. Blessings to you. My son died on Comair Flight 5191.