Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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The Grim Reaper: Not Obliged to Give a Heads-Up That Your Number's Up

Death happens to the best of us, and also to the worst.

We saw that again last week in Paris, and in Beirut, where hundreds of people going about the business of daily living had the bad fortune to cross paths with fanatics armed with weapons of war and hearts full of hate.

The Grim Reaper is not obliged to give a heads-up that your number’s up. There is always a chance that a marathon in Boston or a church in Charleston will be violated by twisted souls who nobody’s God would claim.

The Grim Reaper outsources only a fraction of his job to nut jobs claiming to be guided by homicidal Higher Authorities. The bulk of his business is done by Alzheimer’s and heart disease and cancer and 57 varieties of addiction.

The Grim Reaper does not respect boundaries. Surprise visits to offices and  schools and family vacations are not off limits. He works his regular shift on birthdays, anniversaries, and the occasional bar mitzvah. He does not care that Americans are about to celebrate that most Leo Tolstoy of holidays, Thanksgiving, where “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

This Thanksgiving, as always, happy families count their blessings and carve the turkey, while unhappy families sharpen the long knives and use them on one another. No matter what else might be happening in the world, unhappy families can rarely resist the annual opportunity to eat, drink, and resurrect ancient grievances.

In her brilliant new book “Tribal,” my colleague Diane Roberts reminds us that much of the human race is hard-wired to believe that God wants bloody vengeance for last week’s defeat on the football field. We should not be surprised that there are people on every continent seeking bloody vengeance for civil wars, and Balkan wars, and wars dating back to the 12 tribes of Israel.

This Thanksgiving, let’s skip the competition for Smartest Guy in the Room and Prettiest Presentation of Green Bean Casserole and focus – really focus – on learning something we didn’t know about someone who shares our holiday table. That’s as close as we can come to cheating death.

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On November 19, 2015, a reader from Tampa wrote:

I loved Florence Snyder's Nov. 18th Op-Ed on "The Grim Reaper." At a time when international tragedies abound and it seems that a suicide bomber lurks around every corner, it's reassuring to hear her put things into a bit of perspective. Yes, the Middle East is a mess. Hell, the whole world seems to be a mess. And it's scary--and needs to be dealt with. But the answer is not to freak out, or stick your head safely in the sand; it's to reach out to those around you who are reachable and enjoy them and life as much as you can, while you can. As Snyder says, "That's as close as we can come to cheating death." Amen.


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