It was a year ago this month that a friend of mine, Paul Mackedanz, was struck by a car and killed as he worked along a roadway down in Texas. He was only 23 years old.
While Paul and I weren’t inseparable by any means, I always enjoyed talking with him whenever I got the chance, as he was one of the friendliest guys I’ve ever known. Judging by the size of the crowd that attended his visitation and funeral, I’m not the only one who thought this about him.
While his best friends and family members undoubtedly suffered far more pain than I did at his passing, Paul’s death had a very significant impact on me as well, especially coming as it did so soon after my own close call in December 2015.
As I waited there in the lengthy visitation line for my chance to pass by Paul’s closed casket and give a few inadequate words of comfort to his parents and siblings, I couldn’t stop thinking about how that might have been me in that casket. About how that could have been my family standing in a line with tears in their eyes. About how those could have been my friends coming to pay their last respects.
By all accounts, I shouldn’t have survived Christmas Eve of 2015 when I had my brain hemorrhage. Likewise, by any human understanding, there was no reason for Paul to die in April 2016. The initial reports were that the driver who struck him—and who was also killed—had fallen asleep at the wheel after putting in a long day of work. The accident happened only a few miles from the man’s home. It all seemed so incredibly, tragically senseless.
While I didn’t necessarily experience “survivor’s guilt” in the wake of Paul’s death, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was able to stay behind while Paul, who’s family and friends loved him just as much as mine love me, had to go.
I still don’t know the answer to this question, but I trust that God does.
God knew from all eternity—from before the creation of the world—that Paul Joseph Mackedanz was going to leave this earth on April 26, 2016, just as He’s always known how the rest of us will someday leave it as well, for it is inevitable that every one of us will. Our days here have always been numbered. What’s left for us is to decide how we spend them.
We’re not here on earth to always relax and take it easy, so we shouldn’t let ourselves get too comfortable here. This life is a battle, not a vacation. An adventure, not a final destination. It’s a journey toward eternity, and one we all must take.
And now Paul’s journey is over. His struggle here is at an end.
Someday each of our respective sojourns will inevitably come to a close, much as Paul’s did. I think that his tragic passing helped all of us who knew him to better recognize the fleeting nature of our current, temporal existence. I know it did this for me.
In the same vein, Paul’s death also gave me a greater determination not to waste the second chance I’d been given. I don’t think a day’s gone by that Paul hasn’t crossed my mind. I keep his picture on a bulletin board by my computer, and whenever I glance up at it, I think of him; and I pray for him; and I say to him, “Paul, someday I’m going to see you again, and I’m really trying to make sure you won’t be disappointed by how I spent the extra years I was given that you were not.”
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Requiescat in pace.