This past week, Tyler Doohan, an 8 year old from New York, saved six of his relatives from a burning home only to die while trying to save his handicapped grandfather from the inferno.  As I read Tyler’s story, I can’t help but remember back to five years ago when I unzipped two small body bags.  I remembered the smell.  The smell that lacks a comparison; a smell that sticks to your clothes; a smell so permeating that your piss smells like it for days after.

Enclosed in each body bag was the small body of a burnt child.  I was unzipping the bag to see if they were viewable.  Charred.  Blackened.  Bald faces.  “No”, I thought to myself, “there will be no public viewing.”

As I think about those two children, the images that I saw, the grief that I witnessed from the family members, all these thought and feelings of hopelessness flood over me again, causing my countenance to fall as I let things outside of my control paralyze me from the inside. Motionless, I sit as I remember the mother of those two small children scream out her grief in the funeral home, unable to be comforted by her well-intentioned friends.

When we think about the inevitable, how do we lift our heads?  How do we not just close our eyes and ask for the mercy of eternal sleep?

You will die.

I will die.

It’s the tragedy of life.

Maybe painful.   Maybe today, robbing me of watching my son grow.  Or maybe I die old, the last of my family, alone.  Or, maybe I will see my son die, unable to stop an inevitability that is stronger than I.

And yet, I’m reminded, as I sit paralyzed by these memories, that although from dirt I was made, I am no longer.

“Stand up, child of God, so I can speak to you.  Stand up.  You were made in my image, you will create.  You will create what is good.  Stand up, so I can speak to you.”

So I stand.  I will not be paralyzed by what I cannot change, I will learn to smile.  I will be vulnerable.  I will stop and look at the stars, the flowers, the beauty of the snow, the fading transience of a passing sunset.  I will always have time to talk to you, to stop and help you and to be your friend.  Each day will be my masterpiece; each day, as I lay down my head to rest, I will see that it was good.

I will be the creator of the good.  I will be like God.  I will speak it into existence.

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