The Gift of Death

“Come along buddy,” I called out as I continued along the sidewalk heading back to the house.  I was a young father of twenty seven at the time, my two and a half year old son, toddling along behind me.  Expecting to hear a little voice reply to me, I turned around when I heard nothing.  I turned to see my little son about 20 yards behind me squatting at the edge of the sidewalk, peering with intensity at something on the ground.  Eager to get back to the house, I was a little annoyed as I called to him again, “Come on son.”  

“Look Daddy!” he replied pointing to the ground in front of him.  Curious as to what had captured his attention, I walked back and discovered a small ant hill with its occupants scurrying to and fro with their various ant tasks.  

“Yeah, its just an ant hill, buddy. Let's go,” I told him.  

His expression of wonder changed to one of slight sadness as he began to stand up to walk with me, his eyes never leaving the sight that had entranced him.  It was in that moment that I had one of the more profound realizations of my life...to me they were “just ants” because I had seen them my entire life...but to him they were a completely new wonder in this world of new wonders he had only stepped into 30 months earlier.  

As this hit me, I took his little hand in mine and we stepped back toward the ants and took a few more moments to enjoy the little nuances of their busy little lives.  I had forgotten how interesting they are to watch up close and it wasn’t until I was asked to look at them through the wide eyes of a small child that I re-appreciated this.  

Over time, it's easy to begin to dismiss the mundane repetitive things in life.  It's amazing how quickly we stop finding intrigue in the thousands of continued stimulations we encounter each day.  Be it the song of a bird, the buzzing of insects, the passing of clouds, or the joy of macaroni and cheese, children seem to have a much more acute ability to extract the most from this life.  

On an intellectual level this is odd to me.  After all, if anyone should take life lightly, it should be those who one would think have the most time ahead of them.  But that’s often not the case.  Often it is the adult who is much closer to life’s conclusion than the child who fails to appreciate all the little gifts each day presents.  

We hear it said regularly that we should live each day as if it were our last, as we never know for certain how much time we have left on this earth.  Yet, we still don’t. We still race through our days with the idea we will get things done tomorrow, as if we have an eternal amount of tomorrows awaiting us.  

For most of us, death is an idea we dismiss, something that scares us and we prefer not to think about it.  But what if death isn’t a bad thing?  After all, if we are able to idly and dismissively live our lives now, knowing that death is inevitable...then how much more wasteful would we be with our lives if we lived forever?  We could start each day assured that there would always be a tomorrow to do the important things, and as a result, never feel truly compelled to get around to anything.  


But in a world with death, a world where life is destined to conclude, it's as if this life is crying out for us to take hold of every opportunity and fully submerge ourselves in the experience.  To make sure we stop for a second and watch the ants march, to express our love to those important to us, to take in the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations this life is begging to share with us.  Perhaps it is in that way that death is a gift, a gift meant to enhance this life and rob us of the apathy that would accompany an eternal existence where tomorrow was always assured...an apathy we strangely seem compelled to embrace anyway.        

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