by Mike Pyatt
Hurricane Michael’s freight-train-like assault on northern Florida is a stark reminder of the fragility of life, and how rapidly it’s altered. One day the world’s gentle and inviting, the next day a natural disaster, worse than the experts had forecast, shakes one’s world. It’s those nagging questions that vex one’s soul. Not easy ones like, “Should we switch to E-trade or stick with Charles Schwab?” Do such questions meet the threshold of a watershed event? Some may use the term “gritty” questions. Webster defines it as, “harsh and unpleasant.” How many Mexico City Beach survivors, after surveying the strewn wreckage, resembling a war zone, leaving them with only memories and a handful of pebbles, are asking their gritty question, “Is it time to leave this most-of-the-time-paradise?”
In Wyoming’s would-be-paradise, 37-year old hunting guide Mark Uptain, was found dead after he and a Florida client were attacked by two grizzly bears, while field dressing an elk in the Teton Wilderness this past September. In the true wild where grizzlies prowl, there’s a growing bear population that’s basically un-hunted, and the grizzly is an apex predator who fears nothing. No doubt his wife and 5 kids are facing gritty questions. There’s a reported solace in that Mark died in an activity for which he had a lifetime passion, and his eternal destiny rests in the Lord’s province.
What about those events that interrupt our sleep, and unswervingly beckons disharmony and dissonance to our sense of eudaemonia. It’s those circumstances that shake our previous state of certitude, draining every fiber of our being, as our reverie is ripped rapaciously from our grasp. We’re left vulnerable and exposed. Are we “paying the piper?” Is it the ebb and flow of life? Suddenly, that formerly compliant, quick-to-please offspring, uncharacteristically implodes socially and morally, violating every value you’ve imparted, wreaking havoc on the family. Stealing and lying. Is it drugs? How could that happen? Hence, the beginning of a litany of “Why me?” Most troubling is that few saw it coming. Questions assail us, upon the wings of an echo’s calm, unimpeded, falling on seemingly deaf ears. Hollow questions remain in a shroud of silence. Is there a respite for one’s soul in the midst of such upheaval?
Other than one’s spiritual destiny, nothing’s more important, or precarious, than our health. It may be the ravages of cancer that has lurked beneath the surface undetected for many years to finally rear its ugly head in the life of an apparently healthy, vibrant forty-two old high school coach. Months later his shocked and beleaguered family and friends mourn and weep over his lifeless body. The fragility of life deigns to challenge our soft veneer. The human spirit is nearly indomitable. Yet chronic and protracted illness can reduce a once strong soul into an unrecognizable hull of a former mighty vessel. Most of us have been in proximity of those struggles, only to watch some pass, despite our tears and pleading. Such disquieting scenarios run counter to our romanticized notion of passing quietly in our favorite recliner.
Sadly, some health conditions are self-imposed. Alcoholics, drug addicts, morbid obesity, after years of over indulgence at the table, and the majority of those who contracted HIV/Aids did so after a risky lifestyle of “casual sex” and behaviors that have grave consequences. Since the first “warning label” in 1965, on cigarette packs, Congress passed the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act, hundreds of thousands have succumbed to COPD, emphysema, and other cardio pulmonary diseases associated primarily with smoking. The FDA resorted to more grisly, onerous labeling tactics, showing the top-half of a cadaver after surgery, to stem the tide of cigarette smoking aimed at keeping “smoke free kids.” The rate of adolescent smoking has plummeted. Now they’ve swapped tobacco for what the FDA characterizes as “epidemic use” of E-cigarettes. Bolstered by China and neighboring Mexico, we’re faced with a deadly mix of heroin and carfentanyl to further destabilize our drug-crazed, dependent culture. How much money can we throw at it, and alter the outcome?
We prate of our health, yet we’re far too cavalier regarding it. The Psalmist captured life’s brevity, “Man’s life is as a breath, his days are like a fleeting shadow.” Fifty years ago it was a verse. At three score and fourteen, it’s a gritty reality. Most are grateful benefactors of advanced medical technology, centered on preventative health. A diagnosis of breast cancer may no longer be a death sentence. However, not all healing comes at the hand of the physician. There’s a perfidious side to absolute reliance on medicine. For those who’ve passed from us, one realizes that we have no sway over the grave. We can honor their memory. For the survivors of a malady, accident, or self-inflicted act, and those carrying the burden of a congenital disease, we’re able to offer a fervent prayer, helping hand, or a word of encouragement to hasten the healing process. Winds of travail will continue to buffet us, and shake one’s quotidian existence.
Given the precarious nature of this fragile existence, and its unpredictability, most of which eclipse our reach; it’s wise to plan ahead for eternity. The suffering don’t solicit our pity. They may be beleaguered, but not beaten. Near death, some have had a miraculous healing, and rise again. We can look to Him who ultimately answers all of our “gritty questions.” What about those who survive a would-be grave? Some languish for years, imprisoned, like American Pastor Andrew Brunson, in Turkey. Such questions vex one’s soul. There can be joy in our journey regardless of those gritty questions that routinely snipe at our heels. We’re not called to a morose existence, as those without hope. In the Great Unseen, “the bleachers are packed by a great cloud of witnesses,” who proceeded us by Faith. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org