At Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Paducah, there is a tombstone with my name on it. On the same marker is the name of my bride, our birth dates and the Sept. 14, 1968 date we became one in marriage.

A blank space below the birth dates will be used after we no longer inhabit planet Earth.

By the time you read this, I could be dead, the exact date a mystery to all until it happens.

We use euphemisms such as “passed away,” in part, because of the difficulty I had a few words ago typing “dead,” though certainly I will die, as will you. For the most part, we don’t like to think or talk about life’s only inevitability (besides taxes).

The tombstone and the plot on which it rests are paid for as part of our plan to ease the financial burden on our survivors. We’ve been putting off making funeral arrangements, though it is something we ought to do as well ... again for the sake of those near and dear to us.

On these sad, gloomy days at the start of another year in our lives, we can easily be SAD, which is a real affliction called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Happily, the gloom will be removed for most of us by the sunshine and warmth of approaching spring.

I don’t know how it is affecting me as I gaze out the window at the gloomy skies, drizzling rain and stark, barren trees in the woods across the road. I have no desire to be out in the cold. Retirement has afforded me the opportunity to stay inside near the fire, except for trips to the doctor (more frequently), to church (again, more frequently than ever), the grocery store and to quickly fill the bird feeder.

Sad news impacts us any time of the year, but more so in the cold winter months, when nature itself seems to have “passed away.” The anticipation of spring blossoms, warm sunshine and the resurrection of things once dormant gets us through these SAD times ... most of us ... unless “something happens to us,” as we say in avoidance of the “D” word.

This week, we learned of the death of Kobe Bryant, basketball legend, whose fame extended beyond 94 feet of hardwood. Sentiments, nearly all of them in shock and disbelief, brought us to tears of sorrow. “A great life, ended all too soon,” we lamented. But when is “too soon?” As I approach my 75th birthday, assuredly my passing is nearer than ever; but would it be “too soon?”

Critics of the media quickly jumped on references to the death of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and “seven others” in the helicopter crash. As soon as the other names were released, most responsible news outlets did identify them, with some even detailing a bit of information about their lives. Surely their deaths also came “too soon” for those who loved them and will forever be impacted by their passing.

In assessing how a news story is featured on a news page, my criteria was always, first and foremost, in determining how many people it directly impacted and how extensive that impact was. While Joe Schmoe’s death by lethal gunshot left him dead, the immediate and long-term impact would be far less than that of the bullet that ended President John F. Kennedy’s life in Dallas. For both, it was “too soon.”

None of us like to think about (or even write about) our inevitable demise. Isn’t it always “too soon,” for those whose lives we have touched?

Before it’s “too late,” maybe we ought to consider how prepared we are for the hereafter, and the legacy we will leave behind.

It’s never “too soon” to do the right thing.


Mr. Tom Clinton retired as executive editor of The Messenger in 2011. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Lone Oak.

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