My first collision with mortality, besides an emergency appendectomy at age 17, was the following year, when doctors removed one of my kidneys, after I began passing blood. I had a couple months, I think, between the pronouncement of the all-wise doctor and the surgery itself. I was in my first semester of college and the surgery occurred during Christmas break, plenty of time to consider the worst possible outcome of a major operation like that one.
Mortality hit home for me when I was in college. I was on my way to take an exam and zoned out going over all the material in my mind. The roads were wet from the drizzle and there were accidents all over the place, so of course, I took the back roads. The witness says I went past his driveway at about 50 mph, and he knew what was going to happen. I hit the 75 degree curve and turned the wheel. The car didn’t. I bounced off the guard rails like a bumper car and got shoved off the road where I center punched a tree. He stopped and offered me a lift. I rode to campus where I ran to class and took my exam. I aced it. After the test, I realized what had happened and went to call my parents. The car was totaled.
As a paramedic in the 1970s, much of my training was performed in surgery as I started intravenous lines and endotracheal tubes. Of course, it wasn’t very scary for me then, but the prospect of the body on the table being mine was different.
To make a long story short, the surgery went well and I’m still in the land-of-the-living, but the message that I was not immortal and had an inevitable date with death made an indelible impression on me. Perhaps it is the case we humans don’t think too much about our own mortality until the possibility of death arises.
That may be the reason why the Bible says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth,” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 ESV).
Has there been a moment in your life when mortality — your mortality — hit home hard? Tell us about that moment.
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