Thursday, September 11, 2014
And He Died
The world lost a giant of a man this week. Truett Cathy. You may have heard some pre-recordings that have been airing on different radio stations. One such interview was with NPR. When Mr. Cathy was asked about his future involvement with Chick-fil-a, he jestingly said, "Well, I plan on living forever. But just in case, I'm handing the reins over to my sons." And then he ended the interview with, "Eat more chicken!"Truett Cathy knew that day would come. And it did in the wee hours of Monday morning with his loving family beside him.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in the memorial service for Chief George Potter here in my town. When the bagpipes began playing for the family's procession, I knew immediately I had made a mistake by not wearing water-proof mascara.
The ceremony ended with the Honor Guard folding the flag that had been draped over the casket -- followed by a very slow salute. The doors to the sanctuary had been thrown open and we were able to both hear and see (via the video screen) the 21-gun salute, after which a lone bugler blew taps. There was the flag presentation to Chief Potter's wife, Connie, by the mayor and a long silence while he offered private words of comfort and appreciation, I'm sure. And then over the church speakers came the Last Call. The most powerful and solemn moment in a memorial service I have ever experienced. Three times we heard the voice from a live 911 dispatch operator calling out George Potter's radio number and name, requesting his response ... and each time she waited for him to answer. On the truly last call, the operator announced that George Potter was no longer in service.
It was a stark reminder of ... well, the finality of death as we know it here on earth -- especially to those who are left to mourn and live without.
The truth is death is tacked on to every life story. It goes all the way back to Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 5. "Adam lived 930 years; and he died." His son Seth "lived 912 years; and he died." His son "Enosh was 905 years; and he died." "Kenan was 910 years; and he died." "All the days of Mahalalel were 895 years; and he died." "Jared ... 962 years; and he died." Ah, but then there's Enosh. We are told he WALKED with God; but "then he was no more." Methusaleh was "969 years, and he died." Lamech, "777." Guess what? "And he died." And so it has gone throughout the ages to anyone who has taken a first breath.
So what do we do with that? What do we do with our little blip on the radar?
Truett Cathy knew what to do. He knew he could change any life by the way he treated people. And he did just that. He treated each person he met with respect and kindness. To him, everyone was part of the extended family.
Chief Potter knew what to do. He knew he could make people's lives better by being a public servant who wore a smile and who gave young men opportunities they would not have had otherwise.
There is a tombstone in Christ's Episcopal Church cemetery that dates back to 1850.
Endowed with a fine intellect
a cheerful and amiable disposition
and most liberal
and benevolent feelings,
his long life was devoted
to the duty of rendering himself
to his Creator
by doing most good to His creatures.
Maybe that's the key: "rendering ourselves most acceptable to our Creator by doing most good to His creatures." Hmm. Sounds to me like "and he died" is a daily thing -- not something just tacked on to the end of one's life.
Just an ordinary moment...