GATHER YE ROSES
22 June 2002
Didja hear about that huge asteroid that missed earth this past week? Apparently an
asteroid the size of a football field passed by only 75,000 miles from earth--less than
1/3 the distance from here to the moon. It was the nearest miss ever recorded. Had it hit
earth, it would have had an energy release equivalent to a large nuclear weapon, the news
reports this morning.
Light in weight but with a diameter of between 50 and 120 yards, 2002 MN was big
enough to have caused the kind of devastation wreaked in Siberia in 1908, when an asteroid
that exploded above Tunguska flattened nearly 800 square miles of forest, reports the
Yet another reminder of the fragility of life.
I've been thinking of the fragility of life this week. It started when I had lunch with
my mother and my cousin. My cousin has had a lot of health problems recently and is now on
portable oxygen. I sat there looking at her and my mother and realized there was no way
people would believe the cousin was younger than my mother. She moves slowly and she looks
old (well, at 70 I guess technically she is, but my 82 year old mother looks young
Later, when discussing this cousin's health, my mother and I also talked about another
cousin, who is a couple of years younger than I am, who is having significant health
problems as well. Both these women have been heavy smokers and it is taking its toll. It
hit me that I am entering an age when the death of peers from age-related problems is not
unexpected. I'm no longer a young thing. People my age are going to start dying of natural
The reason for lunch with my mother and cousin was that they were on their way to visit
my aunt, the one with
Alzheimers. This wonderfully witty, intelligent, talented woman who continues to lose hold
on reality, has to be reminded who family members are (she sometimes doesn't recognize her
husband and confuses her daughter with my mother). It is painful to watch, and another
reminder that our hold on this life is so tenuous.
Yesterday afternoon we attended a memorial service for our daughter-in-law Marta's
stepfather, Bill. At 80, he had lived a full life, raised two families, fought in World War
II, and made his mark by working on most of schools in town, and by
building a line of homes here in Davis which bear his name. He retired to Hawaii, building
his dream house on the Big Island, overlooking the ocean.
The theme that seemed to be running through Bill's memorial service was the importance
of living each day as if it were your last, of not letting happiness pass you by, about
chasing those rainbows and not putting things that are important to you off until the time
is right. You may never have the opportunity of hanging around until the time seems to be
Someone once said that many of us lead lives of "quiet desperation." My
friend Diane once said that many of us live "lives of dull expectation." Many
of us, like the biblical Martha, are "busy about many things," while putting off
the things that are really important to us.
When tragedies like 9/11 occur, or an asteroid comes hurtling in our direction, or we
see friends and relatives dying prematurely or unexpectedly, it brings the fragility of
life up closer. It makes us stop and think about where we are in life, where we want to
be, and what is truly important.
The message we should take from all of this is, once again, never to let pass the
opportunity to say what needs to be said; work, as Bill did, to follow your dream, to look
for that happily ever after and not sit around passively hoping that it someday will come
to you. You may not live long enough.
We are all one asteroid, one terrorist bomb, one unexpected accident away from coming
to the end of our lives. I hope that at the end of my life I can look back and know that I
have have done all I can to make my life exactly as I always wanted it to be, and that I
can pass into whatever is to come leaving no regrets behind.
HAPPY JOURNALVERSARY, SECRA!!