In the Snap of a Finger

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My life, so far, has been rather painless in the area of tragedies, so I do not claim to know the pain that someone feels when tragedy confronts them in the dark alleyways of life. I am, however, affected by the tragedies that I see every day at a distance. One tragedy in particular, about a boy who I barely knew, has had a great impact on my life. This boy, once healthy and happy, was diagnosed with cancer at a young age. Similar to how this boy’s life changed for the worse in a single word, mine was also changed for the better in the skip of a heartbeat and I realized that my existence could be altered in the snap of a finger.

Five or so years ago, my family attended a very small church, where on a good day, the Sunday school had five kids. This boy visited our Sunday school maybe two or three times. I do not even remember his name, it might have been Zach, but I remember calling him Tony Romo in my mind because of his resemblance to the Cowboys quarterback. “Tony” was the nephew of a lady that attended our church. He lived far away so he didn’t visit often. At our small church, the Sunday school message was much shorter than the adults’ message, so the kids would go to the field in the back of the church we rented and play football until the parents got done. This kid, maybe a year younger than me, was on of the most talented and agile athletes I’d ever seen. Tony was amazing at football. He was smart. He was good looking. He had a strong relationship with the Lord. He had everything that I wanted. I only played football with him twice, and soon forgot him as one forgets a face on the street. I haven’t seen him since.

A couple years later, my mom asked me if I remembered so-and-so’s nephew who had come to church a couple times. I said “sure.” She told me that he had been recently diagnosed with some form of cancer. I do not know if he was ever victorious over his cancer or if he past away. I did not know him very well at all, he was just a mirage in my past. I felt sorry for him; I wondered how someone so filled with potential could suddenly get cancer. I had experienced death at a distance before, and I had known someone who had cancer most of his life before dying, but I had never known someone that just got cancer. I had never experienced this instantaneous switch from healthy and alive to cancer, this middle ground between life and death, where both are entirely possible. I did not understand how something could change so drastically and so quickly, and I still do not, but I came to accept the fact. I accepted that a life could be taken in the blink of an eye, like the snuffing of a candle. Once a strong burning flame, now just a smoking puddle of melted wax. I slowly realized that just as his life could be changed forever in a quick six letter word, so could mine. Fate could change it’s mind. God could snap his mighty fingers. Luck could reject me. Chance could call an audible. My flame could be blown out at any moment, with nothing I could do to keep it aflame.

Throughout my life I have struggled with the fear of failure. This event helped me to realize that no matter what I do in my life, destiny could take an unexpected turn. Some things cannot be controlled; sometimes there is nothing I can do that will protect me from falling. I realized that no matter how hard I try, there are some things I can never control. But, there is one thing I can control, only one: this moment. I cannot redo the past, I cannot anticipate the future, but I can live in this moment, right now. The Latin phrase “Carpe Diem” is very well known. It is translated as Seize the Day. But that is only half of the original saying. The whole phrase by Horace reads “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero” or “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future.” Horace discovered the key to a happy and successful life. We do not know what will happen tomorrow, we only make the present. The definition of seize is to take hold of suddenly and forcibly. In other words, to not lot let go of. “Seize the day” could be rephrased as “do not let the day slip through your fingers.” I have lived my life under that banner ever since this nameless Tony Romo quickly came and left my life, and in the snap of a finger my life was changed.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain





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