Years ago as a county coroner, I witnessed a number of gripping events. One of the coroner’s jobs is to investigate all unattended deaths. If there is no evidence of “foul play”, the coroner must also attempt to determine the most likely cause of the demise. As a physician, I have tried to learn lessons from death and apply those truths in ways that make life even more meaningful.
Mt. Emily, an especially beautiful spot a few miles out of town, was the site of the very best death I ever investigated. One gorgeous September afternoon an extended family of three generations decided to go huckleberry picking. I can’t think of a more perfect place to be together. Off they went taking enough containers so each person could have a picking bucket. The car was crowded with all six of them, but Grandmother squeezed between the grandkids in the back seat while Mom and Dad and the smallest child climbed in the front. Spirits were high and everyone looked forward to the antiipated delicious results from the day’s activities.
Huckleberrying is not exactly “a walk in the park”. As any of you who have ever picked berries on a mountainside know, it is sometimes difficult to keep your footing on the uneven slopes. There is also the possibility that as you wander in search of new berry bushes with even bigger berries, you might end up quite a distance from the rest of your party. On this particular occasion the weather was lovely, so the soil and grass were not slippery, but the steep incline was still a challenge.
The family had been picking for more than an hour when someone noticed that Grandmother was not in sight. Given the hilly terrain they weren’t too concerned, but Dad gradually began doing more looking for Grandmother than looking for berries. After a while, Mom and the kids joined in the search, and soon other berry pickers in the area began looking for her as well.
The search went on until nearly dark, when they coordinated their efforts and began covering the area systematically. Finally Grandmother was found. Her body was resting quietly next to a stump which she had evidently chosen for a break. Her berry bucket was sitting nearby, partially filled with berries. None of them were spilled.
What a way to live!
What a way to die!
To nearly quote Balaam from the Bible “May my end be like hers”.
Here was an elderly lady, doing an activity she loved, with the people she loved. When she was tired, she sat down to rest and there she quietly passed away.
Physical life is fragile and rarely long enough to suit us. This lady’s mental alertness, social and emotional life was full and productive up to the very end. My coroner’s investigation did not allow me to have any evaluation of her spiritual life –the union of the human person and the Divine Person. That may well have been intact also.
Real health includes each of these three facets (physical, mental, spiritual). The longer I live, the more I realize that weakness or disability in any one of these areas makes the others weaker as well.
My goal is to be able to continue the useful and usually gratifying physical functions of life as long as possible. The mental capacity is even of greater importance to a full life. Retaining full function of my mental-emotional capacity to a very ripe age is even more urgent. To be surrounded by those you love and who love you is a value more precious than the young completely understand.
But spiritual health is in a whole different realm. Now, I realize that my concept of the things God has planned for my life has been entirely too small. My appreciation of what His abiding presence can do to cure my concealed hang ups has been inadequate.
“Too soon old; too late smart.” True spiritual life unites ordinary human people like you and me with the Divine Designer and Creator of the Universe. He shares with us His wisdom and supplies us with His power that we need to use our mental and physical gifts to the best possible advantage.
This toast is “TO HEALTH!!!!”