Carroll Dale Short

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All In All, I'm Just Proud to Still Be Here

By Dale Short

I heard an elderly preacher say once, in his opening prayer: “Lord, I thank you that I was lying on my bed early this morning, and not on my cooling board.”

(Note to younger readers: A cooling board is a device on which people who have, ah, bitten the dust can recline until they reach proper temperature for their funeral.)

Ever since I learned to read, I’ve been looking for information on how to stay alive for the maximum possible number of years. There was a lot of this information in the Bible (and I was raised on maximum Bible), but much of it turned out to have mixed messages.

My parents got a lot of mileage, for instance, out of good old Exodus 20:12, “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land.”

But gradually I noticed that some of the best-behaved kids died young, while their hellion brothers and sisters kept on ticking like a Timex watch. It seemed more likely that the truth was spoken by Matthew who wrote in his 5:45, “For he sendeth rain upon the just and upon the unjust.”

Bummer. Then I came across the Book of Ecclesiastes, whose author made Matthew seem like a wild-eyed optimist by comparison. As in Ecclesiastes 9:12:

“As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.”

Thanks for that, Reverend.

Unfortunately, the passage of years only reinforces this dark, fishing/snaring view of mortality. Several years ago I was on a business trip and ate lunch with some friends at a popular restaurant in downtown San Francisco. A couple of weeks after we’d been home, I opened up the newspaper and saw that this same restaurant had been the scene of a gang-style shooting the day before, in which seven patrons died. If the gang had been a little speedier with their plans, it could just as well have been me.

Another time, we spent one of the most perfect days of my life hiking in a sunlit canyon in a remote part of Arizona. Back home, we later saw on the news where a surprise flood had swept through the same place and killed a dozen people on that beautiful trail.

Closer to home, I was sitting in a rush-hour traffic jam on a Birmingham interstate when I glanced over and saw that the 18-wheeler next to me was fully loaded (over-loaded, it appeared) with huge ceramic pipe. And one of them was moving.

The topmost pipe flinched in the direction of my Buick, but the flimsy restraining strap caught it. Then the load shifted slightly in the opposite direction, toward some hapless motorist in a new black Jetta.

This back and forth went on and on until, just as I was opening my car’s passenger-side door to jump out, the giant load of pipe made up its mind and fell toward the guy in the Jetta.

Fortunately he was not seriously hurt, but I’m sure that he was of lesser height and a larger neck size by the time they dug him out.

Or as Brother Ecclesiastes would put it, “Time and chance happeneth to them [us] all.”

I’ll end this sermon with the words of one of my favorite philosophers, Cousin Minnie Pearl: “You know, I’m just so proud to be here!”

You said it, Minnie. Me, too.

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