Sunday, November 6, 2016

If I Should Die Tomorrow ...

Late last week reports suggested possible terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and here in Texas tomorrow, the day before the 2016 election.

No specific locations were mentioned, and Texas is a really big place. The prospects for terrorist attacks here — and in those other states, too, for that matter — are practically endless.

ISIS isn't the culprit in these reports. Al Qaeda (a familiar name from the past) is. But if a terrorist attack occurs, will it really matter which one is behind it? Isn't terrorism terrorism, no matter who carries it out?

In the now–infamous words of Hillary Clinton, what difference would it make? Except, I suppose, to be sure which one is held responsible.

But we're already pursuing both, aren't we? I mean, that is what I thought. Maybe I was wrong.

Still when the state in which one lives is mentioned in such a context, it is only natural to wonder if something could happen where you live. I spend close to two hours commuting back and forth to work each weekday. It isn't hard for me to imagine something happening along my commute route.

That has forced me to contemplate something I don't like to contemplate — my own death — mainly because when I do, I generally tend to focus on my regrets, all the things I wanted to do but won't get to do.

Oddly, though, as Monday approaches, I find myself at peace. I haven't been thinking about the things that I didn't do. I've been thinking of the things for which I am grateful.

If I should die tomorrow, I am thankful for so many things.

I had loving parents who gave me a wonderful childhood. We weren't rich. I didn't have everything I wanted, but I had everything I needed to be happy and healthy.

My father was a religion professor at a private college. Sometimes he took continuing education courses in the summers, but some years he had summers entirely off. When he did, my parents took my brother and me on road trips. We saw so many historic sites and monuments when I was growing up. I wish everyone could have that experience. It gave me an in–depth education of my country's history — and a perspective on the subject most of my friends did not have.

I had great mentors in my life — teachers, co–workers, ministers. I'm grateful for all the things they taught me, and I try to put those lessons into action whenever I can. And I am thankful for the encouragement they gave me. I have tried to return the favor to those who have come after me.

I've had good friends in my life. Some are deceased now, and if there is an afterlife I look forward to seeing them soon. I have good friends who still exist in this life. Some have left my life, for one reason or another, and some are still in my life. We disagree about things from time to time, but the true friends don't let that stand in the way. For long, anyway. And I have many true friends.

I could have chosen a more lucrative profession, I suppose, but it sure has been fun. In fact, in hindsight, the only truly bad thing about working for newspapers was the pay. I got to meet some interesting folks, both in and out of the newsroom but always because of my newspaper jobs. Oh, sure, there were things about my newspaper jobs that I didn't like — but isn't it that way with every job?

My field has also given me an opportunity, as a journalism professor, to work with young aspiring journalists, and that has been a rewarding experience. In recent years I have served as an adjunct advising a community college newspaper that was recently named the best college newspaper by the Associated College Press. The other nine finalists were four–year schools.

My job has given me the opportunity to do the things I always wanted to do when I was growing up. I wanted to write, and I have done that. As this blog clearly shows, I am writing today. I hope that, whenever I do die, I will have written something that day.

I can't be sure of that, of course. Sometimes people are unconscious for days, weeks, months, even years before they die. So I can't be absolutely certain that I will write something in the hours just before I die.

But if a terrorist attack occurs here tomorrow — and I become a victim of that attack — then this post will be testimony to the fact that I did write something in the hours before I died. I died with my boots on, you might say.

Now, just because I am at peace with the idea of dying does not mean it is what I want to happen. I want to live to see tomorrow's sunset and Tuesday's sunrise.

I'd like to see who wins the presidency after the nastiest campaign in my memory — and probably in the history of the United States. I've been studying American presidential history nearly all my life, and I know there have been some nasty campaigns in the past so I won't go so far as to claim this has been the worst ever, but it has certainly been the worst in my lifetime.

Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I would like to know who the American voters choose to lead them for the next four years. To not be able to see that would be like watching all but the last 10 minutes of a movie.

It would have to go on my list of unfinished business. Some people might call that a "bucket list." I don't really have a bucket list. (Sometimes I feel like comedian John Pinette, who said he had a list, but it wasn't a bucket list — although, he added, it did rhyme with bucket.) It's just a list of things I would like to finish before I die.

But I guess we all die leaving something incomplete. So if I die tomorrow, there will be things that are unfinished. That's the way it is.

And now, let tomorrow come — and bring whatever it brings.

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