I was at the computer. Jenny sat at the piano, playing “Seek Ye First” over and over again, always messing up at the end.
“Emily,” she said with a sigh, “do you think I will ever be able to play this song perfectly?”
“Of course,” I said.
“But how do you know? I always mess up at the end!”
“Jenny,” I said. “You are thirteen. That means you have seventy more years to live. If you play that song over and over again for seventy years, of course you will be able to play it perfectly.”
“Good point,” said Jenny. Then, “so you think I’m gonna die when I’m eighty-three?”
“Well if I don’t, then I’ll go laugh to your grave.”
“My grave!” I said. “But I’m going to live longer than you. I’m going to live until I’m eighty-nine.”
“Ha ha ha!” Jenny pointed her finger at me and laughed. “When you’re eighty-nine I’ll be eighty so you’ll still die before I do!”
“Fine. I’ll live to be ninety-three. And you’ll die before me.” I paused. “No wait! I don’t want to watch you die! I’ll die first!”
“I don’t want to watch you to die either!” Jenny exclaimed. Maybe we can die at the same time.
“Okay, as long as it’s not double suicide,” I said. “Maybe we can be in the same house at the same time and be taken up in a tornado.”
“We can both die of old age at the exact same moment,” said Jenny.
“That’s impossible, and kind of creepy.” I thought for a moment. “This is how it will be. One day I will say to you, ‘Hey Jenny, I’m ninety-two, and you’re eighty-three, and we’ve never sailed around the world!’ And you will say, ‘Well then by all means let’s sail around the world! Nevermind that we don’t know how to sail a sailboat, I’m sure we can just paddle it like a canoe.’ And so we will get in a sailboat and paddle into the ocean and capsize and die, but we’ll go out with a bang.”
Jenny and I laughed.
A day or two later, we were at the supper table, when Grandma stopped in for something or other and told us that Kristi’s best friend in Idaho had died. Kristi is my second cousin, and also my friend. She lives in Idaho, but was in Oregon for the summer working.
I hurried down to the place where Kristi was staying. There she was with our friend Anna, who also knew the girl who died. They were crying, standing around listlessly and crying, like they didn’t know which was was up.
Both of them wanted to go back for the funeral, but weren’t sure how to get there. The verse came to my head, Esther 4:14, when Mordecai says to her, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Only I was thinking, “And who knows but that you haven’t been able to get a job this summer for such a time as this?” I told them that, if they wanted me too, I would drive them out to the funeral.
Janna Mong was sixteen when she died. She didn’t get to live her last seventy years.
I didn’t know her. The entire trip, the funeral, everything, was somewhat bizarre because of this. They were all mourning her, and I couldn’t identify, because I didn’t know her.
Yet all the same, I mourned. I mourned the sadness in the faces of my friends. I mourned because it doesn’t seem right that a girl should have to miss the last seventy years on this earth. All the things she could have accomplished, all she could have done, from learning to play “Seek Ye First” perfectly to sailing around the world. Gone.
When I got home, Jenny said to me, “I didn’t need to use my 70 years.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I learned to play the song perfectly.”
I’ll end with a cliche: Time is precious. Life is precious. Use it wisely.