In the last week, I have discovered that two of my law school classmates, both in their early to mid 40s, have died. One died in a car accident, the other from a heart attack.
In the last week, I have learned that the wife of a friend my age - again early 40s - lies in critical condition after a brain aneurysm.
In the last two weeks, I have learned that a co-worker has stage four colon cancer that has metastasized to her liver and lungs.
Not all fragility is health-related, of course.
I count among my very best friends three whose marriages - two of which had lasted over two decades - recently dissolved when my friends were in their forties, when the "hardest times" were supposedly past. They are all in different stages of recovery.
My church has suffered greatly over the past two years. In terms of finances, leadership, direction, national affiliation, and fellowship, we are fragile right now.
Any teenager can tell you that hearts are fragile. Friendships are fragile.
Too often, dreams are fragile.
A co-worker lost her job a couple of weeks ago. I did not work closely enough with her to know if she deserved this fate or not. I do know that she came to work one day having no idea how fragile her immediate future was. She found out that morning about 9:30.
Fragility is not always bad. Fine china is fragile. Our archives and libraries are filled with fragile documents. Today, good friends celebrate the birth of their first grandchild. Healthy, but fragile, a new life enters the world.
What is too easy is to retreat into a fortress, to protect our fragile lives - and the fragile new life that comes among us - as best we can. And when I hear about my law school friends and my friend's sick wife and my divorced friend and my co-workers, I understand that need. We want to just make it all go away.
But yet, fragility is what allows the butterfly to fly and the rose to bloom. It is what makes the voice of my youngest so profound. It is the very fragility of life that makes living it such a celebration.
We can think that we desire the new baby to miss all of this "stuff." Of course, we know that we really want her to find life "more abundantly" - that means we want her to grab everything that life has to offer her. And those of us who know the Way to that life of abundance will work to help her find the Way for herself... Even if the road is rocky.
You know the proverb - a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not why ships are made.
Easy for me to say - I still have my job, my health, my marriage, and my life... for this moment anyway.
I am recognizing anew that what I have is fragile. This is nothing shocking, of course. The ancient preacher tells us that the flower fades and the grass withers. So much of what we do and have is a chasing of the wind.
Join me in praying for my sick friends and my hurting friends. Protect your fragility where you can without destroying the celebration. On days like today, when I am tempted to run to a fortress, help me remember the words of the poet: "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying. And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying."
I know that the proverb and the poem are right. Tomorrow, I will see strength, purpose, endurance, power. Today, I am seeing the fragility.
My favorite quotation begins with the line. "Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future." You don't need hope on the days you are feeling the strength and understanding the purpose of everything. Hope is for the day you see the fragility.
So today, I have fragility and hope. I think I can live with that.