A Meditation on the Brevity of Life, As Seen in a Video

January 30 BlogMy cousin, John Clem, died suddenly last week at the age of 52. It was likely a pulmonary embolism. The suddenness of his death shocked and deeply saddened many. He was dearly loved and was a great servant of God and man in the Charlottesville, Virginia area.

At the funeral today, my mind drifted back to a photo album my father once assembled not long before his death. In the frontispiece he inscribed a passage from Psalm 103:

But as for man, his days are like the grass,
or as the flower of the field.
The wind blows and he is gone,
And his place never sees him anymore.

Indeed, our lives do pass swiftly. I often think about the many men who once lived in my rectory, this place that never sees them anymore. One day, I too will be swept from here, becoming a distant memory peering out from some old photographs in the archive.

In Psalm 90 there are some other painfully beautiful lines:

O Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to the next.
Before the mountains were born
or the earth or the world brought forth,
you are God, without beginning or end.

You turn men back to dust
and say, “Go back, sons of men.”
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday, come and gone,
no more than a watch in the night.

You sweep men away like a dream,
like the grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers:
by evening it withers and fades. …

Our life is over like a sigh.
Our span is seventy years,
or eighty for those who are strong.

Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger forever?
Show pity to your servants.

In the morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Give us joy to balance our affliction
for the years when we knew misfortune.

Show forth your work to your servants;
let your glory shine on their children.
Let the favor of the Lord be upon us.

Yes, lines like these went through my mind at the funeral and also this past weekend as I saw this beautiful video—a commercial, really. The short video below shows the span of one woman’s life, some seventy years, in less than two minutes. How quickly she moves through the stages of her life, from infancy to her golden years!

At the end of the video, the woman walks off into the distance as the setting sun casts its orange and gold rays. Here, too, I recalled the moving lines of an old hymn:

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.

Our years number seventy—or perhaps eighty for those who are strong. Or as the old Douay beautifully put it, The days of our years are threescore and ten. But if in the strong they be fourscore …

10 Replies to “A Meditation on the Brevity of Life, As Seen in a Video”

  1. Monsignor,

    Please accept my condolences on the passing of your cousin. I’m sorry for your loss. I will keep him in my prayers.

  2. My condolences about the loss of a family member, and thank you for sharing.
    Two beautiful quotes from scripture, especially Psalm 90. Whenever I find myself being impatient I recall the verse comparing a thousand years to yesterday or a watch in the night. Then I find myself relaxing from a tension that I didn’t know I had until it was lifted from me.
    Then, when I checked in Bible Gateway for a little more context, this part of the next verse drew my eye, “So make thy right hand known:”
    We all know who sits at the right hand of the Father and many are the introductions of the Son, in the Old Testament.
    I will pray for your cousin, John Clem.

  3. John was cherished in the Charlottesville community and beyond. He will be missed but I know he is praying for us! Praying for him, you, and family

  4. Prayers and condolences, Msgr, on the loss of a man who, from your writing, appears to have been a great servant of God in this life.
    I too have always been very moved by the beautiful words of the old hymn you quoted from, ‘Abide With Me’, and I am further reminded of a lovely little quote, attributed to St Ambrose:
    “The foolish fear death as the greatest of evils; the wise desire it as a rest after labours and the end of ills.”
    I feel sure you and your cousin would agree with that one – and we might all take courage and comfort from it as we approach the day when Our lord calls us back to Himself.
    God bless all.

  5. Why does the Modernist New Order Church not preach on the four last things? Instead we get this wicked universalism heresy that has crept into the Church where you hear it from even Bishops and even Popes?!
    Tempus Fugit Momento Mori!! Sorry for your loss Padre.

  6. May he be emrbraced by the Light of Christ – whole and healed.

    I collapsed in street last August and ended up in a ooma. Told they thought I might not make it or if I did – brain damaged. But on the third day I came back again. What it seems like now looking back and I didn’t miss the irony believe me.

    I have no memory of collapsing and was told how I was found – thankfully straight away or I would certainly not be here.

    But it definitely brought home to me how we are here one moment and gone the next and I have a lot of experience with the sick and dying too.

    This is an aside. My younger brother died two years ago aged 50. A fireman. I honestly think he was there some way when I collapsed last year. Just how things transpired – what I was told afterwards. Surreal.

    I dreamed one night last week. vivid dream. He said to me, “We don’t visit you as often as you might like there because you are already here with us.”

    Give me a new take and ‘All live in Christ’.

    RIP to this sweet soul and sorry for you and your family. The Lord works in mysterious ways indeed.

  7. Msgr Pope, I was the recipient of John’s kind favor. He had a keen love of natural Creation and supported the formation of Stations of Creation at Terra Patris since its inception. He brought others, and always with his camera, his smile and his own good nature. He will be in our prayers in a special way.

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