The Gift of Life

I once clipped a strange story from the newspaper. It was about a man named Jose Estrada who drove to a popular trail where he like to jog. While Estrada was running, another jogger on the same trail collapsed and died of a heart attack. The man’s body was taken to a nearby hospital where authorities found a car key in his pocket, but no identification. 

Assuming they would be able to find the name of the deceased man in his automobile registration papers, they brought the key back to a parking lot near the jogging trail. They figured that if they tried the key in various locked doors of cars parked by the trail, they might eventually find his car and learn who he was. So they experimented until they were able to open the doors of one of the vehicles. 

Now, here’s where the story gets strange. The key opened the door of Estrada’s pickup truck. They examined Estrada’s registration papers and notified his wife of her husband’s untimely death. They asked her to come to the hospital and identify his body.

And here is where the story gets stranger still. Mrs. Estrada saw the body on the table with a tube snaking from his mouth, his eyes taped shut and wearing jogging clothing much like her husband wore. In her distraught condition she assumed the body belonged to Jose and signed the death certificate.
Meanwhile, Jose Estrada finished running, drove back home and promptly learned from a friend, who was more than stunned to encounter him in the flesh, that he was supposed to be dead. He immediately sped to the hospital and strode, as big as life, into the waiting room. His startled wife fell into his arms laughing and crying. The only thing she managed to spurt out was, “Jose, if you ever die on me again, I’ll kill you myself.” After all, he was dead and then he was alive… he was lost and then he was found. All in a single day. 

Eventually, the poor deceased man was properly identified and his family contacted. For this man’s family, as well as for Estrada’s wife, I wonder what thoughts first surfaced when they received news of the untimely death. Did they try to recall their last moments with him? Did they try to remember if they told him they loved him that morning? Was there an argument? Were there regrets?

How fragile life can be. I suspect that, if life came in a package, it would arrive in a box labeled, “Fragile: Handle with Care.” It is delicate and can be damaged in a moment. And I also suspect that, if life came in a package, it would arrive as a gift. It is undeserved and priceless. Which of us earned it and who could ever afford it?

My challenge is to remember that life is fragile. And it is an awesome gift. But what I want to remember most of all is that the people in my life, these beautiful gifts, are also fragile. And they, especially, need to be handled with care.

Grace and Peace

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