Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Life is but a vapor...

Hello my crazy friends,

I've not written for a while, and for that you have my apologies. If you follow this blog, even occasionally, I'm sure you've gotten tired of logging on and seeing that Mike still hasn't gotten around to sit down for even a few quiet moments to reflect and write. I'll try to do better.

Many of you know that I am a police chaplain and that I often get called into messy situations. A few days ago I had one of those. I was riding with an officer on afternoon shift when we got a call about a traffic fatality. Arriving on the scene we discovered that the deceased was a young woman who had suffered a motorcycle accident on the freeway and died almost instantly. I can't go into details but that scene has bothered me for days. It was a beautiful sunny day in Portland--no rain, dry pavement, the smell of blossoms in the air--and suddenly, with no warning, life stopped for that young woman. In that moment she was rocketed into eternity with no time for any kind of prayer or preparation.

My role at the scene was mainly to deal with her boyfriend, who was understandably traumatized by the accident. They had been traveling together but riding two different motorcycles. He witnessed the whole thing in his rear view mirror. She started to wobble, lost control, and crashed into a cement retaining wall, which broke her neck. That kind of traffic accident is handled by the police as though it were a crime scene even though no one else is involved, requiring the bureau criminalists to take pictures, do exact measurements, map the whole area, pick up anything that might be evidence, and keep a crime scene log of any officers or investigators who cross the yellow tape. As you can imagine, all of that detailed analysis takes time, which means that for several hours the victim was lying there by the side of the road covered by a yellow tarp with only her hands and boots visible.

However, after the medical examiner finally arrived we barricaded the area with police vehicles to block the view of passing motorists while he made his on-scene examination. When he finished, I along with a couple of officers helped the ME put her into a body bag and onto a gurney, which we then loaded into his van. While the ME examined her the officers and I stood there watching, and it just confirmed again for me that death is an enemy, any way you stack it. For her life to be snuffed out so quickly, and on such a day--it was hard for all of us to accept.

For some reason her face has stuck in my mind, and since that afternoon I have been thinking a lot about life, and about how quickly and violently it can end. James 4:14 says, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." How true that is. Life comes with no guarantee, no warranty card. None of us knows how long we have to live, and every breath, every beat of our heart is a God-given gift.

Most of us live as though we were bullet-proof, as though nothing could happen to us. Oh sure, bad stuff happens to other people but it can't touch us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is a mist, a vapor, like Oregon fog. The more you try to grab onto it the more it slips through your fingers. The more you attempt to put your fingers around it, the more illusive it becomes.

So where am I going with this rambling narrative? Nowhere except to say that all of us need to keep short accounts--with God and with our loved ones. If death should overtake me the way it did that young woman a few days ago I don't want have any "I love yous" left unspoken. If God should call me home I don't want to arrive on Heaven's shore with a red face because of hidden sins in my life that I had been planning to take care of with God but never got a chance. I want to leave here with no regrets and arrive there clean. Does that make sense?

The older I get and the longer I do police chaplaincy the easier it becomes for me to tell people I love them. I don't want to miss a single opportunity because I just might not get another one. And I think I'm doing better at staying in touch with the Lord too. Heaven doesn't seem far away to me anymore, like it did when I was a kid. Since my folks died and went to be with Jesus, Heaven seems very near.

I don't know if that young woman knew the Lord. I sure hope so.

Still crazy,

1 comment:

  1. Well said.
    In the scope of eternity, the amount of time we have in our mortal bodies is almost meaningless, but the decisions we make while we are here are crucial.


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