“…you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14

Have you ever thought about your breath? It’s an invisible force, flowing through your body; necessary to keep your brain alive, your heart pumping, and every cell on task.

One summer, I was waiting in line at the bank. As I looked around, I noticed an older couple sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs against the wall. The man clutched a mound of paper on his lap. As his wife nervously talked to him, he stared straight ahead. He said a couple of gruff words to his wife, but this did not stop her incessant chatter.

I turned back to the teller, but she was still helping the people in front of me. Suddenly, I heard a thud. I turned around to see the same older man sprawled on the cold marble floor. His wife leaped from her chair and frantically knelt beside him. I watched as she pleaded for him to “get up.” When he did not respond, she shook his shoulders, screaming louder.

Within minutes two medics with a gurney entered the bank. Swiftly they knelt beside the man and asked his wife to move back. They tried pumping his heart. They tired a defibrillator.

Meanwhile, activity in the bank had ceased. All eyes were on the crumpled body on the cold, hard floor. Within moments one of the medics called the time and they put a white sheet over his lifeless form.

As I watched them boost him onto the gurney, I felt a sinking in my stomach. I glanced over at the now empty chairs, the marble floor, and doors through which he disappeared.

“I just watched a man die…right in front of me.” I said to myself.

“May I help you,” came a voice from behind me. I turned around to look at the pretty, young teller. She smiled and repeated, “May I help you.”

Speechless, I nodded and handed her my deposit slip. As she processed it, I looked around the room. People bustling about. It was business as usual.

I walked out into the humid heat and got into my car. I sat there numb, playing the scene over again in my mind, as if it were a play, and I could redirect the outcome. But instead, I watched the breath of life leave the old man’s body. The world paused for a moment, and then returned to its rhythm.

I caught my breath. I had to pray: to connect with the Source that gives life.

Can you recall an experience that revealed: Life is fragile? Do you pay attention when these moments happen to you?

These flashes encourage us to recognize and cherish what gives our lives purpose and meaning.  Because it could all change in a heartbeat. They teach us too, with grateful hearts, to acknowledge God: our Breath of Life.

These moments are humbling, they help us see our small place in the world. So when it’s our turn, we won’t mind when the world returns to its rhythm.

Note: picture by Mike Palmer copyright 2013