Life Is But A Preface

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Life is but a preface

To a never ending tome.

A story yet unwritten,

Waiting to unfold.

There is be no epilogue,

“The road goes ever on,”

As someone wisely wrote

Not so long ago.”

Our short stay here on earth is like the preface of a book. Short and sometimes sweet. If we stand back and put our years into perspective of just known history, our lives are very short indeed. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” As my parents have gotten older just like when my grandmother and great aunt had aged, I seem to be walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I am surrounded by their mortality, and reminded of mine.  One day, it will be my turn. And for the record, no one knows when it’s their turn. I don’t like to presume I have thirty more years, we’ve all learned, sadly, that some will go sooner than expected.

So somber, so sad…especially for those who left unexpectedly. But…as believers in Jesus Christ, the good news is that life really is just a preface, a short introduction to the complete story, the purpose of the literary creation. A preface to a wonderful story yet to be written by the One Who created the beautiful heavens and the luscious earth, the One Who wonderfully and fearfully created you and me. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

I have come to accept the finish line of this earthly race, whether it’s far ahead or near, I can’t tell. My eyesight has worsened since my 40’s. My hare-like nature has wizened up a bit, and is trying to apply some tortoise-shaped brakes to the break neck speed I’m used to. Always in a hurry. Time to slow down and ponder this short brief “vapor” of a life I’m living.

What is life all about? Is life nothing more than a library of stories of those who came before us, those who share our point in time and those who are to come? Our brief tango with time. Will our accumulation of experiences and memories only disappear after our deaths or, at best, linger in the memories of our family and friends? What’s it all about, Alfie?

When I was a young adult, I struggled with these questions. I struggled to find my place in my family and in this world. I sought for truth. The true understanding of what this life was about. I found the answer in Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  Coming from a catholic background, it wasn’t hard to personally embrace the teachings of the New Testament. Being born again was and continues to be the prime reality for me. Yay, Jesus lives! There is eternal life, and there is meaning to our lives here on earth. And there is Someone Who loves us beyond our imagination.

So after I made this decision, my life was perfect, right? Hahaha…ad infinitum. No, it wasn’t. I was still saddled with this human, sinful nature. I’ve made my share of mistakes, poor decisions and sins of omission. I’m at a place where I look around at the landscape of my past and try to understand my present. I am thankful God in Christ has forgiven me, and for all that is in Christ which is now mine. It’s taken me a long time to apprehend the treasures we’ve received as Christians. I hope I can redeem the remaining time for the benefit of my kids, to provide a somewhat sturdy, albeit at times stumbling example to walking in His steps.

Moses is attributed to writing Psalm 90. In this lovely piece of Hebrew poetry, he writes, So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.As I look forward (meaning looking forward (ahead), not looking forward) to the conclusion of my preface, however long that might be, I look to Him to teach me to number my days, that I may present to Him a heart of wisdom. Something I can take from this life, and hopefully, something that will linger in the memories of my family and friends to point them to the Ancient of Days, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He had sent.

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
-Robert Browning

Epilogue: David’s Sunrise is Home

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Three months to the day of David J Ochoa’s untimely and tragic death, his parents trekked to Fresno to pick up the painting that will always be a beautiful memorial to this young man and reminder of his short, but beloved life.

David died on February 19th, 2018. At the time, David was seeing my daughter, Espi. His death has struck us hard, and we are still reeling. Two days later I took the picture this painting is based on.

As had been told before, not only was the picture a beautiful image of a bird heading for the heavens at the dawn of the day, but it was taken at a particular intersection in South San Francisco, California two days after his death. Even more remarkable was the conversation between his mother and I when she revealed that where I took the picture was very close to where David left this earth. Flew quietly away, if you will.

I love what Wendy said in her blog, “David’s Sunrise: The Story of a Photo”,

“…this image becomes one more example of how art can imitate life, and how an unseen God can intervene in the world, making Himself known through an art form, captured at an intersection of time and space, inserting His presence where He is needed most, to help in the process of grief, honoring a young man taken too soon.”

As much as we long to undo that day in February, to somehow bring David back, we sadly and powerlessly cannot. Such is the hardest thing to deal with in this life: Death. And Death is all around us, the Great Inevitable. David’s Sunrise reminds us of a “really sweet” life gone too soon, but it also reminds us that this is David’s Sunrise, not his sunset. I feel that is an important component to this story. David has gone before us. Even King David, after his newborn son died, said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” Wendy quoted Nabokov, “Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.”

I agree. Jesus, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life” shortly before he raised Lazarus from the dead, assures us that there is life after death. There is physical life after death. Every Easter, we remember this Man, His life and the gift of eternal life He’s given us through His death. Every time we look at this painting, we remember the young man, David J Ochoa, who lived here, but lives elsewhere now.

This painting is hung on a wall that seemed prepared for it. God in His wonderful providence has brought people together in His haphazard and serendipitous way to comfort a family and memorialize a life. All of us who were involved in this have been humbly blessed. Such are the marvelous ways of the Lord.

David will not only live on in our hearts and memories, but he lives now in the presence of God. I feel the painting points all our attention to the heavens, to the Sunrise. I look forward to the day when I can get to know David better.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.    – Revelation 21:4

David