[I meant to post this yesterday, but it ended up being a busy day. It would have been much more impressive if it the date coincided with the title!]
I woke up yesterday to hear once again about the assassination of Pres. Kennedy. This man’s unfortunate death has haunted me for almost my entire life, for reasons that will become apparent soon. I understand that he was an inspiring leader, and that his death came as a shock to a nation, and the world. It’s not every day that one of the most powerful individuals in the world loses his life, especially at a relatively young age.
Yet as time goes on, I wonder–why do we continue to dwell on this one death? I understand doing so this particular year a bit better, as it was the 50th anniversary of his death. I can understand why I heard so much about it in my childhood, as it was still a fresh wound. But I kept thinking yesterday…will this man’s passing haunt me until my own departure from this earth? Why should one man–and a very flawed one at that (aren’t we all?)–stay so fixed in our collective memory?
I learned last year that another man died on this day: an author named C.S. Lewis. You may have heard of him? I was amazed to find out that both of these events happened on the very same day, and couldn’t figure out why I had never realized that before. What a relatively quiet passing Lewis had, by comparison. He died of natural causes, of course, and that makes a difference. He was a bookish man and a teacher, not a world leader. Naturally that lowers him on the radar. Yet the impact he has had on the world (I would argue) was no less momentous.
Interestingly, we remember Lewis for the life he lived, and for the contributions he made to the betterment of mankind. We talk about him and his ideas as though he were still with us, and certainly his books help us feel that way.
What do we (as a society) most often remember about Kennedy? Certainly, he made his own contributions to society, although sometimes those were accidental. We also remember many of his foibles (Ms. Monroe, anyone?). Yet these days, it seems that his name resurfaces most of the time because of his shocking death. For the life cut off too short, the potential that went unmet.
It’s as if our culture longs for a hero, mourns for the “one great hope” that Kennedy somehow represents (I wonder whether we would still feel this way if he had lived a long and prosperous life–would we still immortalize him, or would our attitude be much more realistic?)
Of course, all of this speaks to a need that for many of us goes unmet: the desire for a Savior that we often don’t even realize we have. I find it interesting that One Death–the most important of all–often stays below the radar for some people, and is certainly not broadcast far and wide on the media channels.
Lewis and Kennedy; both esteemed in their own time, both remembered fondly after their death. Both sinners in need of a Savior. In the former, I feel fairly confident in saying that he is with his Savior now in heaven. I’m not so sure of the latter, but it really isn’t my business to know anyway.
To be honest, it really doesn’t matter how we view the death of either of these gentlemen, no matter how amazing they were. All that matters is how we view the One Death that truly matters.
Earlier, I mentioned that Kennedy’s (and now Lewis’) deaths haunt me each year. This is because I was born on 11/22, a (small) number of years after their own departures. From early on, I was tormented with somber school assemblies and constant reminders of what a sorrowful day it was. Happy birthday to me, huh? But when I found out about Lewis, I was finally able to find something a bit more positive to remember about that day. I choose to think that in some (very) small way, Lewis passed his torch on to me. (Ok, not really. There’s no way I could even come close to his writing/thinking abilities! Scratch that. Let’s just say he inspires me, and I choose to claim him as a kindred spirit.)
None of us has any control over the day we were born, or any way to prevent our passing, whatever the circumstances will be when that happens. What matters is what we do with the time in-between. Here’s hoping your life (and death) are done well, and in full view of eternity.
Question for you: What, in your view, will make your life “well-lived”? How do you define this, and what do you feel you need to accomplish to make this happen? Leave your thoughts in the comments!