Living the Sweet Life: Sometimes a Sweet Life is Also a Short One

By Alisa Murray Nationally recognized portrait artist and award- winning columnist.

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and award-
winning columnist.

Somehow, despite knowing the facts, we tend to “forget” that we are never promised tomorrow. We do not live our lives daily as it would be our last. Perhaps it is healthier to pretend . . . but I do not think so.

I have seen my fair share of sweet lives being short ones. The worst kind of this is when you lose – although no one is really ever “lost” – a child. It goes against the natural ways we like to think the world works. Both my mother and father died before their parents, and now it has happened again. Sometimes things work out differently.

A few weeks ago, my sweet 19 year-old nephew Jennings was killed. He was the star football player, graduated with honors chemistry and had just started college. He was full to the brim with jokes and life. In one split instant, he was gone. As I gaze at my pictures that I have taken over the years of him, I am reminded yet again that what I do as an artist is priceless.

When sweet lives become short ones, we ask ourselves the usual questions of “why?” I’ll tell you why. Bad stuff just happens, and my friends, God has nothing to “do” with it. Truthfully, as I stared back at over 400 young folks and family speaking to them and trying to both comfort and explain that life happens, I myself felt a sense of calm and resign.

When everything seems to be falling apart, there is always a sign – like the perfect collection of pinecones to mark a life.

When everything seems to be falling apart, there is always a sign – like the perfect collection of pinecones to mark a life.

My nephew was, as we Christians say, “saved.” In being saved, the Holy Spirit is always with us, and when he passed, the Holy Spirit was with him. That is what makes it all ok to die when we do and under whatever circumstances. Everyone must acknowledge that life’s last push is death. We will all die, but with God, we don’t really. Lots of people that day got that message. What they also saw was a sweet life well lived.

Jennings traveled to the Philippines with his youth group and helped countless families stricken with poverty, touched all of their lives and befriended them with smiles even on their worst days. Through his passing, he gave his heart, liver, kidneys and limbs to save and make others’ lives better – even possible. Although short, he lived a sweet life.

Sometimes, when we are paying attention, God winks at us. It’s at the most desperate times and the most joyful that He demonstrates that His love is always around us and that when we die, we are never really gone if under His loving care.

We as a family traveled to North Carolina to provide comfort and to say in each of our own ways goodbye to a wonderful young man. He wanted to be a forester and loved the woods. Y’all know that I do not like anything that doesn’t involve air conditioning and room service; however, we decided to rent an RV and make the trip. The required time to travel was a forced down time to gather as a family and process this awful, unthinkable experience.

The morning we awoke and headed on our last leg back to Houston, I went outside and found that the “park” we had rolled into that night was really a bunch of tall pine trees. Oddly enough, it was a place my nephew would have loved. I started shooting the sunrise, and as I did, the bright rays through the trees formed a perfect cross. Then, I noticed several pinecones on the ground in various states of development. I began gathering for a shot of the lifecycle of a pine.

As I finished gathering, the last I needed were the tiniest of seeds that had been blown away from the cones in order to make new trees. I began counting out the tiny seeds, and as I was working, all of the children gathered around me. I wanted 19 seeds – one for each year of Jennings’ life. I placed the seeds on the old picnic table, and as I counted out loud, I stopped at a perfect 19 laid there before me! There was not another seed to be found anywhere. I looked up and saw the faces of my family staring back at me, and I said, “If you needed any proof that Jennings is right here with us, I think you just got it!”

God is good all the time. You just have to be aware of signs letting you know that even in the darkest of hours, it’s all going to be ok.

Do you have a story of a God wink? If so, I’d love to hear it!

Take Care of YOU!