When the chickenpox faded, my boy returned to school and everything seemed fine, but by the end of the week he was displaying symptoms of influenza. The high fever hit early Monday morning, and my wife promptly informed me she could not take any more time off work.
It was my turn to stay home. I took my son the doctor later that morning, and she advised he stay home the entire week. Upon returning to the house, I made some phone calls and wrote a few emails to the university; classes and meetings were canceled, advisory sessions were rescheduled, and deadlines were pushed back. Once that was all taken care of, I settled down to nursing my little one back to health.
Somewhere during the course of that week, I had a series of thoughts related to my absence from work. My job at the university is a multifaceted one, and my work affects many people – students, professors, corporate clients, researchers, and editors. As the days went by, I thought about how my absence had likely inconvenienced them all. I did not brood too much on the matter because my son is my chief priority, and I knew I would make up for my missed work when I returned the following week.
All the same, thinking about these things brought a saying to my mind, the one about cemeteries being filled with indispensable people, and I thought about this in relation to my own life.
Of course, we are all indispensable in a sense, for each of us is a unique creation of God, and each of our lives touches others in ways we cannot even begin to fathom. In addition, we all have responsibilities, and some of these help make the world function, for better or for worse. So it comes as no surprise that most of us believe the world cannot go on without us, that the universe will fall apart if we do not get up in the morning and do our part. This in itself is a good attitude to have – what each of us do every day is of immense importance. Nevertheless, as difficult as it is to conceive, the truth is the world will go on without us, regardless of who we are in life.
Take my situation for example. As I mentioned, my role at the university is a rather multifaceted one, and I occupy what could be classified a specialist role. In other words, I would not be easy to replace. If my time came tomorrow, it would cause a tremendous inconvenience to many. Yet, I imagine a replacement could be found after a month or two, and if none were found, perhaps the university would simply arrange things in such a way that my absence posed no problem to their continued functioning. One way or other, my colleagues and students would learn to live without me.
The same holds true for my family. Obviously, my death would cause a considerable amount of sorrow and perhaps some hardship, but my wife and son would adjust and continue on without me in the best way they could. I would be gone, but the world would continue in some form or other despite my absence from it.
Though many consider such thoughts morbid, I have realized coming to grips with the notion that the world will go on once I am gone is not only vital to understanding the nature of my mortal life, but an essential reminder of where my true focus should lie while I am here on this Earth.
Acknowledging the world will go on once I am gone allows me to focus on how I will go on once I am gone from the world. Naturally I am doing everything in my power to ensure my loved ones can manage and perhaps even prosper in the physical world in the event of my death, but that is not my sole concern.
Every day I ask myself this question: The world will go on after I am gone, but how will I go on once I am gone from the world?
Thankfully, my son recovered from his influenza and will shortly return to school. After I went back to work, I kept the question above in the forefront of my mind and remind myself of it constantly.
After all, this is not a matter of if, but how. We will all go on – the only question is how. The answer to that question lies in this life. We must remember that.