Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Grace of a Good Death

Last Friday there was a terrible accident on a stretch of highway in the area where I live. People I know were caught in the traffic mess caused by it, sitting for hours on what's usually a pretty quick-moving section of a local loop. Early reports from the accident said that a person was killed, but that was easy to tell from the piece of crushed and twisted metal that had been a Nissan sedan; you just knew looking at the images from the crash that the person in that car could never have survived.

And the early reports also confirmed early on that the accident wasn't the car driver's fault. When a Nissan becomes collateral damage in an accident that also involves a cement truck and an 18-wheeler it's a tragedy no matter whose fault it is, but even more so when the car is the equivalent of an innocent bystander.

Reading the report linked above, I found out a few more things about Jason Powell, the deceased driver of the Nissan. He was 25, but would have been 26 on Sunday. He and his wife were devout Baptists, involved in their church, married five years, the parents of a five-month-old. He was a pilot, and I couldn't help but wonder how often his wife worried intensely while he was aloft, but never dreamed his life would end in a completely different kind of accident. He seems to have been an admirable young man who will be greatly missed from the reports that have come out, and from his obituary.

There was another death in the news this weekend, a death that garnered a lot of attention, outpourings of sympathy and prayers. Tony Snow will also be missed; but Jason Powell's death caused me a bit more reflection. Mr. Snow, after all, had time. He knew his years were slipping away, and he had the chance to prepare, to let family know how much they were loved, to take advantage of the time to reflect on God and His mysteries, and to die at peace with God and man.

Jason Powell's life ended suddenly, in a moment of terror on a mundane daily journey. And though we all pray for the grace of a good death, a death with plenty of time for preparation, for the reception of the sacraments, for the opportunity to be on good terms with all of those in our lives, we know we're not guaranteed that.

Which is why the most poingnant thing I read in the article about Mr. Powell was this:
His friends made a tribute to him on MySpace.com and Fackbook.com, but it's Powell who may have left them the greatest tribute. On his own page, before he died, he told everyone how much he loved them.
What prompted him to do that we'll never really know, but there it is. Not knowing his life would be cut so short so soon, Powell took a minute, perhaps thinking of his upcoming birthday or of some similar thing, to express his love for the people in his life. And that minute became an unbelievable blessing to the grieving friends and family he left behind.

To all who have died, O Lord, grant eternal rest; and to all of us who remain, by the intercession of St. Joseph, the grace of a good death. Amen.

1 comment:

smiles said...

As we approach the 1 year anniversary of the death of Jason, I managed to find this blog that you wrote and read it again. You are a fantastic writer. One thing that I think about often is something that the preacher said at Jason's funeral. He said that even though the wound was still fresh and it hurt so bad, something good will come of this. I think the good was that Jason's light shined so bright that you noticed, and took the time to find out about him, even though you had never met him.

Jason is still missed very much and sometimes I walk by his parents house and wonder how they are doing. I pray that God continues to provide them with peace and guidence.

His son is getting so big and is the spitting image of his father! He is a precious gift and I know the Powell family clings to him as he is what is left of Jason.