Today I heard about the death of Chris, a 46 year-old guy I came to first know during my Pacific Martial Arts karate days.
Chris moved to the Portland area, but he'd return once in a while to take part in the Tai Chi classes that are now the focus of Pacific Martial Arts. He was engaging, positive, funny, and a pleasure to be around.
We were close in the way many men are: by sharing a love of a physical activity. I knew some things about Chris, but mostly I knew him through the martial arts classes we shared.
Cause of death isn't certain. An aortic aneurysm is suspected.
The only good news is that death came quickly. Everything else is bad news. Chris had children and a wife. He was fit and athletic.
When my Tai Chi instructor told me the news, my first reaction was to say, You've got to be kidding! But as soon as the words left my mouth, I quickly added, I know you aren't; I just can't believe Chris is dead.
That's the thing about death. It's unbelievable when it happens to someone too young for it to happen to. For people like me, in our mid-70s or older, death is entirely believable. We don't welcome it. But it isn't a big surprise when it occurs.
I don't want to engage in platitudes. You know, like how death makes us appreciate life.
That's true. However, there's such a huge gap between the shocking finality of the death of someone too young to die and bumper sticker-like cliches, as wordy as I am, I don't want to spend words on trying to find any meaning in Chris' death.
I'm an atheist. Those of us who don't believe in God or the supernatural care as much as religious believers in finding meaning in life. And, yes, death.
But the way I see it, that meaning doesn't exist out there, like the objective universe does. It only exists in here, in our subjective feelings and thoughts.
And right now I fail to see any meaning in Chris' death. I just see sadness, grief, loss.
A few months ago Chris took part in a three-hour Tai Chi seminar at Pacific Martial Arts with the theme of Swimming Dragon. I remember how lively Chris was, how he lightened up the room with his sense of humor.
Now he's dead. That just seems utterly wrong. I'm deeply philosophical. I understand that my feeling of utterly wrong can't be defended logically.
It's simply what's in my heart -- a conviction that no matter what power, force, or laws of nature guide human events, it got things wrong with Chris. That makes me sad.