My younger cousin, David, died in the line of duty as a police officer in Salt Lake City. His tragic death has made me pause and ponder on the fragile nature of life. David was three years younger than me, and the age gap made his connection to my little brother much closer than to me. Even still, I respected David, especially as we became adults. I saw him become a man and join the Marines. He was dedicated and hard working. I was always happy to see him at family gatherings and relieved after his tours in Afghanistan were over. I hate war.
After David’s time in the Marine Corp he transitioned to the police force only 11 months before being killed. I imagine he thought being a police officer would allow him more time with his wife and new son than the Marine Corp did.
None of us know when or how we will die. We don’t know how many days, weeks or years we have left. My cousin kissed his wife and new baby goodbye before going into work one morning and he never came home. Thanksgiving was just a couple of days earlier and Christmas one short month away — his baby’s first. I’m sure he had a lifetime of plans to carry out and memories he wanted to make.
David enjoyed life. I saw him forgive and mend bridges that would have been easy to keep broken. He was kind and had a good soul. My heart hurts for his family, for his baby who will grow up only hearing stories of how amazing his dad was, for his wife who lost her best friend and lover, for his parents who don’t get to see their youngest son thrive at being a dad, for everyone who now doesn’t get the chance to know him.
We can’t plan when we die. We can’t plan disease or accident. We can only plan to love and live life without regret. God has given us one life, one body, one soul. We decide what we do with it. That was His gift to us. I call it agency. My cousin’s tragic death has reaffirmed to me just how precious life is and how mindful/intentional I need to be about living it. Hug your loved ones tighter. Eat dinner together and talk. Connect in weakness and show your vulnerability. Allow yourself to be human and show yourself some self-compassion. Do something you love. Enjoy being you and stop comparing. Look for the good in yourself, in others, and in hardships.
Despite how much bad there is in the world there is also an infinite amount of good. Like my cousin David, be the good.