Lessons from a life lived well


A beautiful blonde woman is pictured looking upward beyond the eye of the camera that is photographing her. Her mouth forms a slight, very sweet smile.

It is a picture that should not be in a newspaper, at least not on the page where it is printed. It's on the page titled "Funerals and Memorials."

Twenty-six-year-old Natalie Dailey died Aug. 16 in downtown Austin when an SUV struck the motorcycle on which she rode. "Police said the car failed to yield," the Austin American-Statesman reported.

I did not know Natalie, but she attended one of our Texas Baptist churches -- First Baptist in Austin. Her passing has hurt many people, as deaths, especially young ones, always do.

The obituary says some interesting things about Natalie. She "loved children of all ages" and had worked in various jobs and roles that ministered to people's needs -- resident teacher at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, nanny to a family of children, caseworker at Child Protective Services, education coordinator at Bright Horizons Family Center, and a worker in the children's programs at First Baptist.

Within an hour after reading about Natalie, I happened across a quote from a book I read about 20 years ago. It's from the novel, The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. A father says to his son:

A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning.

I disagree with the statement that "meaning is not automatically given to life." It is. As creations of God, each life has meaning no matter what you or I do with it. But it is true that we invest our lives with greater meaning by how we live.

When my first son died 14 hours after his birth, I said at the graveside service that a life cannot be judged by its length. That happened almost 30 years ago, and Tyler has been impacting the lives of my wife and me ever since.

Life is short, whether it ends at one day, 26 years, or a 101 years. It is crushing when young lives are lost. The people who loved that one comes to love him or her at a deeper, more profound, more eternal level.

Natalie, it seems, invested her life with great meaning because of the love and service she brought to others. Those who love her will never forget her. Those of us who think of her can learn from her and live our lives more intent on adding meaning to the great gift of life God already has granted.

Life is short for all of us, but it is long enough to worship God by how we live our lives.

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