Friday, June 13, 2008


The lead story in the afternoon news today is the sudden death of the beloved television correspondent, Tim Russert. As I listened to the radio commentator reporting the death in somber and shocked tones, I found myself feeling a touch of sorrow. A man who was, by all accounts, a loving and dignified human being had died, and he would be missed by many. There would surely be tears among his family and friends, and news stories tonight would mourn his passing. Surprisingly, though, my thoughts slowly shifted from this single death in Washington to the vast wave of deaths that was moving across the world on this day. It is estimated that approximately 155,000 people die each day around the globe – 155,000 people who will be mourned and missed today by loved ones, 155,000 people who brought some special goodness to the earth and tomorrow will have disappeared. The earth, figuratively, is flooded with tears of grief and regret even as I type this. Right at this moment thousands and thousands of my fellow humans are lamenting an incalculable loss. Do I dwell on this because I revel in morbidly pessimistic thinking? I don’t think so. These reflections merely help me to keep things in perspective, to see “the big picture”. Tim Russert was part of an enormous and irresistible surge of human death which sweeps across our planet every single day, and, in a sense, he will be missed and mourned not one whit more than the poorest and most forgotten person in the morgue. Mr. Russert gave great gifts to the human race in his short life, but so, in their own distinctive and perhaps unseen way, did each of the 155,000 people who will die by midnight tonight. All of their deaths are worthy of being announced on the evening news, for the earth will miss each of them in special and profound ways. But while we mourn the passing of these thousands of people, including the celebrated ones like Mr. Russert, we should also try to find some peace in our hearts, some way of seeing the absolute necessity and rightness of all these deaths – for death is an essential part of life. On this day, while so many are dying, even more are being born. Estimates are that nearly 200, 000 new human beings are being welcomed all over the world today, and – as strange and insensitive as it may sound – it is because of death that there is room for these little ones to thrive and prosper. Tens of thousands depart and tens of thousands arrive. We wave a sad goodbye with our tissues and we offer a welcoming embrace with our smiles. It’s simply the way it always has been, the way it must be. The truth is that death is life’s greatest gift to itself. The flowers spring up in April only because the leaves crinkle and tumble in November. We mourn for the loss of Mr. Russert and the 155,000 others who will leaves us today, but lurking somewhere in our hearts must be a smile of acceptance and peace as we think of so many thousands of new-born babies bursting into the arms of our fortunate human race today.

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