What Is the Debt of the Living to the Dead?

I know this week’s podcast was already just me talking about the impact of death on those of us who must carry on living, but safe to say, the topic won’t leave me alone. Much like in the podcast, though, I’m not really here to talk about Kobe. I don’t know anything about him as a person, and I’m certainly not about to try and parse out all the ups and downs of his life. At the same time, watching a lot of the tributes and the heartfelt messages from the people who did know him, I had one of those weird, seemingly random pop culture connections. The focus on how to go about living up to Kobe’s legacy, making sure we show our love to the people in our lives while we’re all still living and have the option, I thought of one of my favorite movies that I haven’t seen in a long time. Stephen King’s Shawshank Redemption is a masterpiece, and one of my favorite lines comes from Andy Dufresne talking to Red after they’ve learned about the death of their friend, Brooks. Red is telling him to stop torturing himself with his dreams of freedom, and Andy drops the hammer, “I guess it all comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

I know that was a long route to get here, but this is debt the living owe the dead. They can’t live anymore, we can. I’m not saying we can’t mourn the dead, we can and should. While you’re mourning them, send some prayers up for them, too. In the end, though, our beloved dead have, in many and varied ways, shown the living what it means to be alive. Now, we owe it to them to do the same. Especially when we see someone so young die so unexpectedly, it is a reminder that we aren’t promised tomorrow, only today. So, when our loved ones are watching us, are they seeing us really appreciating the lives we’re living? Are we living, not only for ourselves, but for them as well? Or are we just waiting for our turn? Squandering the gift we’ve given, and the lessons they’ve taught?

As always, in full disclosure, I’m not good at this a lot of times. Much of my time alive is hardly what could be called really living. I don’t call my friends, I get complacent and kill time in isolation more than I should, and too often, I let my pettiness keep me from saying the things I really need to. I’m not beating myself up, I’m calling myself out. I’m confident I’m not the only one. So, let’s change it. Let’s make that simple choice, and get busy living.

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