This article was written on the heels of the January 8, 2011 Arizona shooting massacre that occurred at the political rally invovling U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In the aftermath of the Arizona shootings, we’d be wise to avoid the ongoing political discourse among those who only want to accuse and blame. The exploitation of this tragedy perpetrated by certain media, special interest groups, and elected officials only serves to expose their callousness to what was a sad, dark event for all America.
The grave matter of concern is in the tragic loss of the life at the hands of a disturbed, sick human being. The six victims ranged in age from 9 years to 79 years; the one just starting out on the road of life and the other much farther along. The family and friends that are left to bear the confusion, pain and sorrow are among the most victimized, and need our prayerful support.
Probably most of us have had to deal with the death of a family member or, perhaps, a close friend. Let me tell you a little about Jonathan Mancha.
Jon left us and was taken to heaven just over a year ago. It was sudden and unexpected; in the middle of the night. He was, and is, the beloved son of two wonderful and kind people, my brother Joe and his wife Kay. Jon was 29 years of age at the time his body quit; just a kid in many respects, but a mature, solid young man in the ways that count; again, a tribute to his parents.
In many ways, the minds and hearts of those within my family are still privately and quietly reeling. I understand the tendency toward self-preservation, to guard our own emotions, to avoid asking honest questions like ‘why would such a good person be taken when not yet even in the prime of life?’ Or, ‘why should his parents have to experience such heartache when they did everything right in raising Jon?’ I don’t think we ever get concise answers to these kinds of questions; however, over the course of time, we can identify certain aspects of good that are born out of these difficult occurrences in life.
I recall the Memorial service when about three hundred of Jon’s relatives, friends and acquaintances gathered to honor him. The stories, the sincerity, the laughter and the tears that poured forth from these people were a tribute to Jon and family, and a testimony of a life that influenced so many others in so short a time. It was a time of honest reflection and heart-searching. It was also a gathering for the sake of closure, but for me, a door opened to a season in which I have been increasingly mindful of the brevity of life here on earth, and the immense value of personal relationships.
Simon & Garfunkel wrote of one who declared, ‘I touch no one and no touches me…I am a rock, I am an island”; however, in life, that state of being is unattainable. Each of us WILL touch and influence the lives of others in one way or another, and, hopefully, for the good. We’d be wise to look for opportunities to expend ourselves on behalf of those in need, while remaining vulnerable enough to receive when we find ourselves hurting.
For our lives to count for something ‘in death’, they must first count for something ‘in life’. Jon’s did and so did the fallen in Arizona.
For us who remain, whether we live to be 10 years of age or 100 years of age, we, too, can take the high road in life, that of serving and supporting our ‘neighbor’. That is the sure way to make a contribution that will endure long after we have moved on.