COMMENTARY: Life is fleeting

by Feb 28, 2022OPINIONS0 comments



One Feather Editor


As I was reading over the information of the tragic loss of a young woman on the Oconaluftee yesterday (Feb. 24), I was reminded how very fragile life is. This lady from Ohio, reported age 34, lost her life while kayaking the river. I did a quick internet search and had noted that at around six yesterday morning, she had posted to her social media. As many of us do, she gave her thoughts on the news of the day, particularly the situation between Russia and Ukraine.

She looked to be like any one of us. She was a very active person. At her very young age, she had already achieved much, choosing to work in the field of marketing and public relations, something I have spent most of my life doing in one incarnation or another. At least externally, she looked healthy, well-rounded, and was poised for many more years of life.

She had no way of knowing that yesterday would be her last day of this life on earth. It was just another day, one full of potential. And she was very likely doing one of the things she loved to do.

It saddens me when anyone passes, but it particularly saddens me when young people die. For I know that, especially for the young, death is a subject that doesn’t get discussed and, if it is, it is usually in reference to someone else. Even though I am nearly double this young lady’s age, my own demise is not at the top of my list of things to chat about. Family members when I broach the subject of death, will turn their heads, throw a hand, and say, “I don’t want to talk about that now.”

Reviewing obituaries is part of my job. The One Feather is one of the few remaining newspapers that do not charge a fee for publication of obituaries. We get our fair share of them. Unfortunately, many of the death notices we receive are for people who unexpectedly pass and several of those are very young. It is heartbreaking for us to see the passing of life. For families, it is devastating. For friends and community, it is a sad reminder of the frailty of life.

As I continued to write this over the weekend, yet another tragedy struck close to home as it was announced that an apparent gun fight had ended in death and a critical injury on the Qualla Boundary at a local fast-food restaurant. I was saddened, not only by the incident and the obvious waste of human life and subsequent suffering at the loss, but at some reactions in the moments that followed. Social media began to buzz after the Cherokee Indian Police Department issued a brief press release acknowledging the incident. The first social media comment from some people wanted to know the race of the persons involved. Thankfully, that was not the prevailing commentary on the announcement, but it is sickening to think that a person’s compassion is only reserved for a particular race. What a pitiful community we will be if we ever let our focus become race and not humanity.

One of the seven core Cherokee values speaks to our sense of integrity, honor, respect, and humility. It also speaks of spirituality. I know that spirituality is a very personal thing for all of humanity, each individually subscribing to a form of it, and each with our own idea of deity. I personally am a Christian by faith, and that means I have a specific understanding of the deity in which I believe and a certain set of core values. Like many others-Christians, other faiths, and even some atheists-I draw wisdom from the Holy Bible, a book of books relating historical and spiritual knowledge. I only prefaced the following because I know that we all don’t follow the same faith, but we all are able to see wisdom in writings of those who went before us. In the Holy Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 11, verses 7-10, are recorded the following stanzas of poetry:

“Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.                                                                                         

So, if a man lives many years, let him rejoice in them all.                                                                                      

But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many.                                                           

Everything to come is futile.                                                                                                                              

Rejoice, O young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.                    

Walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes,                                                                          

but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgement.                                                                

So banish sorrow from your heart, and cast off pain from your body, for youth and vigor are fleeting.”

Recent events in our community and on the world-stage should make us more aware of the fleeting nature of life. The fact that so many of our young people are showing up in the obituary column should be a solemn reminder of this fact. And it should also make us thankful for each day, make sure each day brings joy to ourselves, to others, and to our Creator. Be prepared spiritually and literally for the inevitable. One thing is for certain. Young or old, life is fleeting.

To the families of those who are going through tragic losses, I extend my sincere and respectful condolences. You have definitely been in my and I am sure many others in our community’s thoughts. I pray for your peace and for your hearts to heal.