Posted by: ritagone | October 19, 2011

Surprised by Death

It seems that these days death can find you anywhere, even in the most surprising places.  For example, a hair salon in upscale Seal Beach, California, where recently a man went gunning, apparently, for his ex-wife and while he was at it killed seven other people as well.  The incongruity of sitting in a salon chair getting your hair washed and cut and being shot and killed is not lost on contemporary news watchers.  Nor should it be.  There is no way to avoid the risk involved in these settings unless one does some kind of spot check before grocery shopping or getting a hair cut.

And how can you live life like that?  How can you check before you get into your car and drive somewhere innocuous like the market or the post office?  The answer is: you can’t.

The other way to cope: don’t go out.  Oh, there are people who have chosen this route, living in fear, sneaking to the grocery store at night, when perhaps they feel safest, quickly darting up the aisles, grabbing their list of food supplies and then just as quickly paying and getting home, safely behind their walls and doors.

But then, we all know that there isn’t much assured safety in one’s home either.  There are break-in’s and assaults on one’s own home turf also.  Robbers and thieves go anywhere to gain entry and take what they can whenever they feel the need; they are no respecter of persons or places.  They don’t care about your fear; in fact, that plays right into their plans.

It’s that kind of random arbitrariness to it all that is perhaps most frightening.  We all like to think that unless there is some reason to be worried or concerned, we are safe.  We like to believe that getting your hair washed and cut is among the safest of activities, and that someone else’s terror-filled situation will not fall upon us in any dangerous or life-threatening way.  It’s not our issue.  Why should it be, then, harmful to us?

And then, all of a sudden, it is.  Bullets are flying randomly, and you’re fighting for your life.  I’ve often wondered what I would do in similar circumstances.  Would I fall to the ground and pretend to be dead so that the shooter would move on to someone else?  Would I have that kind of presence of mind?  Would I be the person who throws herself in front of someone else – a total stranger – and saves a life, an instinctual move, made without thought or reason, just because my heart reacts before my brain?  I somehow doubt it.  I’m more of a coward than I’d like to admit.  I’d probably be the person hoping someone would throw themselves in front of me, to be honest.  Or would I be smart and quick enough to try to stop the shooter, grab the gun, throw something at him (or her) to dislodge the weapon?  (Not a chance, I imagine, again, if I were honest.)  All of these ponderings go through my own mind as I wonder what went through the minds of those people trapped in a hair salon for minutes that must have seemed like hours that sunny Wednesday, October 12 afternoon.

Like so many events, this one also teaches us that life is random.  You just don’t know what can happen to you when you step out of bed in the morning.  It also teaches us perhaps the most profound and prevalent lesson all around us: each day, each minute of every day, is precious, because it truly may be your last.  It might not be an inconsolable ex-husband’s bullet that randomly ends your life in a hair salon because you couldn’t get a 10 a.m. appointment and all the person who cuts your hair had that day was an opening at 1 p.m.  It might instead be a bus that swerves and hits your car, or a heart that decides to stop beating.

Whatever it is, life is indeed tenuous.

On the other hand, my friends Bob and Mickey in Oregon have an amazing story to tell.  Mickey was in the kitchen; Bob was in the basement in his workshop.  He came upstairs to get a new battery for a tool he was using and collapsed in their living room.  Mickey called 911 and began CPR on Bob, worked on him for seven minutes until the ambulance came.  She saved his life.  Had he collapsed in the basement, she would later have found him dead.  That dead battery that needed replacing saved him, along with a wife who knew CPR.  So it wasn’t his time yet.  They are praising God and believing that God is in control of their lives for some profound reason.

That’s the take-away to all of this: God is indeed in control, for what looks like good and what looks like bad.  We have to trust Him and know that beyond our understanding, He is working out all things for a purpose that we can’t begin to fathom.

It’s a mystery, one we will not solve this side of heaven.

And – for apparent good or apparent bad –  that’s got to be enough for right now.


  1. Every minute is a gift thank you for the reminder!

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