Friday, February 24, 2006

You Never See It Coming

SINGAPORE - A teenage guitarist got so carried away while bouncing up and down on his bed mimicking a rock star that he flew out of a third floor window to his death, a Singapore newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Straits Times said Li Xiao Meng, a 16-year-old from China who was studying at Singapore's Hua Business School, was a keen musician who liked to jump up and down while playing his guitar in his hostel room.

"But on November 17 he took things a bit too far," the newspaper said, reporting on a coroner's court findings.

Ruling death by misadventure, the court said evidence "points to the deceased unintentionally falling out of the window to his death when he was hyped up with exhilaration, jumping up and down on the bed placed against an open window while mimicking a rock guitarist.'"'

Then I said to myself, "What befalls the fool will befall me also; why then have I been so very wise?" And I said to myself that this also is vanity. (Ecc 2:15, RSV)

This would be hilarious in a movie. In real life, a tragedy like this just reminds me how conditional my life is. I do more careless things than that every day; and even if I didn’t, the things that can kill me at any moment are both innumerable and unknowable. And most of them would put me face to face with Jesus both unprepared and really embarrassed.

When I was a kid, I always wondered about prayers for a peaceful death. It seemed much better to die with my boots on. It took me years to realize that a peaceful death didn’t mean a lingering death in bed, it meant a death you were prepared for, even if you didn’t know it was coming. Yesterday was the feast of St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, associate of Ignatius, student of John the Evangelist, and one of the first well-recorded martyrs of the church. Tied to a stake at the age of 86 for refusing to renounce the faith, the fire refused to burn him. He was finally stabbed. That’s dying with your boots on; it’s also a peaceful death, because he was completely ready for it. Would I be that prepared? Not even close.

From the closing prayer of Compline:
May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death. Amen.