I was just stopping by the office to pick something up when one of the secretaries approached me. She had just had a call that had shaken her up. Our young colleague, Prof. Q., was found dead this morning.
I thought I had not heard right - Q just turned 40, was quite the shooting star. He was a prolific researcher, a crack in his field, loved by the students. He was active as a member of the faculty board, even if he was the quiet type. He didn't run around making politics, but quietly made very good suggestions after studying all sides of the matter. He was athletic, jogged a lot, was going to run the marathon last Sunday. How could he be dead?
We don't know what happened. All we know is that he died sometime between Friday and today, he lived alone. He had not taught his class Monday night, which was unusual for him, but we didn't hear about that until this morning.
The day took a sudden, lurching turn. There were all sorts of things to be organized and people to be informed. People were shocked and sad - how do we react to this, how can we give people a chance to mourn at work?
We decided to have a candle and a flower at his chair at the next faculty board, and of course will have a notice in the paper. We had to quickly organize teachers - the semester started yesterday. Where to find new teachers for 4 courses at the drop of a hat? Everyone pulled together and amazingly, it looks like we have people willing to jump in and take over his classes.
We will still have to deal with things like his email and web page. We can put a death notice on the web page, but what do you do with the email? Send out a bounce "Sorry, I won't be able to answer because I'm dead."? Will someone have to answer his emails? What about his thesis students?
His death reminds us all that our life on earth is finite. The end can come at any time. The Bible reminds us of this:
"Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" [James 4:14].We need to learn to quit worrying about tomorrow - that may never come. We need to deal with today and enjoy the blessings of each day, even the smallest things.