Sunday, February 13, 2005

The House of Mourning...

This past Friday I had the always sobering experience of attending a funeral viewing, for a friend who passed away prematurely in this instance. His name was David Ratts, and he was my undergraduate academic advisor in the School of Informatics. I don't think I've ever had a more energetic, caring and helpful counselor at school; unfortunately he was several years from reaching his allotted years when he died at 56 last week.

One of the things that struck me was the breadth of his accomplishments in the arts before his work with the school. When I read his obituary it was clear that he had a life full of accomplishment and achievement, yet when his time came, it just came, as with all other men.

On the day I went to his viewing I thought of Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 and what it means:

"A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one's birth; Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

These verses are probably more difficult to understand for a younger person, but they certainly mean more to me now than they did five years ago. I'm really thankful that what believe gives us the ability to cast death, even a premature one such as this, in a light of hope and promise rather than in despair and hopelessness. My friends death and the verses in Ecclesiastes make me enjoy and appreciate life that much more, by being reminded that you never really know how long you'll have it.

I found this quote from Mark Twain at a site I stumbled onto and have really enjoyed, it's called Quote Garden: "The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." I don't think you could say it much better... hopefully that's they way we can all feel when we've "finished our race".