The wisest people I know are the people who have faced death and lived to tell about it.

Granted, you don’t run into one of these people every day. But they’re not hard to spot: As a general rule, they’re happy, they savor each minute of life, and they don’t dwell on either the negative or the inconsequential. And you can’t say that about most of us.

There must be something clarifying about facing down death, something that trivializes the normal give and take of daily life and throws a spotlight on what’s important, and what’s not.

The neighborhood people featured in our organ transplant story this month know this, whether they or their family have been on the receiving or the giving end of a transplant.

Some have been given a second chance to make a difference in life. Others have watched life snatched from a loved one, only to see it given anew to someone else.

These are important considerations this month as we reconsider the message and meaning of last September.

We’ll undoubtedly be witness all over again to the carnage and horror on television throughout the month, and that footage will be accompanied by an endless amount of somber “analysis” by self-appointed experts. There will be memorial services galore, televised and otherwise, that we can attend in person or in spirit.

We’ll read plenty of sobering reviews of our situation in newspapers and magazines, and our pulpits will be filled with voices of advice and foreboding. Family members of the dead and injured will be talking about their lives since last September, some with stories of healing and hope and others with stories of hate and sorrow.

If past patterns hold, there will be no shortage of people telling us how we should feel, how we should think and what we should be doing about it.

It’s not for me, or anyone else, to tell you how to live your life. But now that we’re all a year older and, hopefully, somewhat wiser, the one thing that should be clear is that we might have less time than we think to do what we want to do and say what we want to say. If there is a positive lesson from last September, it’s that there are few “sure things” in life, and how we deal with that uncertainty, how we sift the important from the irrelevant, pretty much determines our success and happiness in life.

That’s the message I gleaned from last September. Anyone who has been involved in the organ donor process would probably agree.


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