The Many Joys And Sorrows In Life

“Life’s a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you’re gonna get.” -Mrs. Gump in “Forrest Gump”

In a space of 12 hours, life can bring great joy, deep sadness and a horrific tragedy. Mrs. Gump was right, you never know what you’re gonna get.

I barely made it from Washington, D.C., to Ft. Worth, Texas, in time to be at the hospital when my granddaughter, 6-pounds, 6-ounce Kinsie Kae, made her debut onto the world stage.

As all grandparents know, it’s a crap shoot trying to figure out what day to book a flight to the Mainland to arrive for a grand-child’s birth. Given a due date of July 22, and her being a first-time mom, I could only guess: Will she be early, late or on time? With that mindset, I arbitrarily booked my flight for July 19. It seemed a reasonable gamble. The morning of the 19th I’d bid a sad farewell to our two other granddaughters in Northern Virginia and headed for the airport. How can a person feel so sad yet so happy all at once?

Before boarding the flight, I received a call from my son, Kyle, saying that his nine-months-pregnant wife, Marcie, would be picking me up at the airport. I won’t lie, that made me a little nervous. But, upon landing in Dallas three hours later, a text message read: Marcie’s in labor. Headed to the hospital.

With the help of a rental car, my phone GPS and the true GPS (God Providing Support), I made it to the hospital in plenty of time to start giving annoying advice to the new parents. The baby came at 9:25 p.m. To gaze upon the new, precious little life, with her minute, exquisitely designed form complete with tiny fingernails and, well, big feet (maybe she’ll be an Olympic swimmer), was to witness a miracle. My joy overflowed.

But joy turned to shock as I learned that just three hours after her birth at 12:10 a.m. July 20, a sinister plot unfolded at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., where 12 lives were snuffed out. A young man armed to the hilt, in one pure evil act, shot 12 young “miracles” once born into this world just like Kinsie Kae, wiping away their futures, their ability to bring forth new life, to dream dreams, to be Olympic swimmers.

As I watched the horror unfold, never inured to such scenes which take place all too frequently, I prayed for the parents and grandparents who could never imagine this fate for their loved ones – their own miracles lying lifeless at a bloody Colorado crime scene.

And yet again the day brought sorrow. I received a shocking message via email that another life had ended, this time in Hawaii. Donald Parker, former Punahou, University of Virginia and San Francisco 49ers football star, beloved husband, father, friend, church elder and businessman, died suddenly. With wife, Sally, Don shared the love of seven children, five grandchildren, many other family members and untold numbers of friends.

I knew Don mostly through the First Presbyterian Church and through his wife. But I never knew of his fervent support for the Shalom Christian Birthing Home in the Philippines, which provides trained nurses to care for impoverished women from remote villages, dramatically decreasing the rate of infant mortality there. He wasn’t a man who would boast of such generosity.

The famous 19th century U.S. poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “When a great man dies, for years the light he leaves behind him, lies on the paths of men.” Don Parker is such a man who lives on by the light he shined on so many here in Hawaii.

Joy, sadness, evil, loss, goodness, birth, death. All can sometimes come at once. All are “chocolates” in Mrs. Gump’s metaphorical box of life. Some you savor, some you spit out and some you give away. Today, my choice is to savor: the chocolate of new life, the ability to pray for those who grieve, and each moment of every day God gives.