Jamie Navarre, who died from cancer last week, wrote this on Facebook in 2011, after a benefit concert for him in St. Francisville:

I look at my situation as a blessing. God has given me a chance imgresto appreciate life to the fullest, I wake up every morning and thank Him for one more day and do the same at night. None of us are promised tomorrow! I hated going to work for 15 years, and now I smile all day because I sit next to people in the chemo room who can’t go to work, so I feel blessed. God has given me a chance to make our relationship stronger. And He has chosen to use me as a tool to help spread His love. People I know that didn’t pray, now pray. People that didn’t go to church, now go. Even if it is only a few, it doesn’t matter. Fifteen hundred people came together in an act of charity and hopefully came away with a good feeling. Some people had never even laid eyes on me before. Hopefully, they know now what that feeling was about. It is about God putting love in their hearts. I will never, ever be able to repay their kindness, so I will fight every to try to show that they made a difference. I will fight to show that God can work miracles, and, if He doesn’t choose to cure me, that you will look back at my journey and you will see that He was with me the whole time, carrying me. No matter what His choice, He has made me a better man and you can’t ask for more than that!

Jamie’s funeral is this morning in St. Francisville. I’ve spent the last two days in suburban Amsterdam, visiting with my friend M., who has stage four cancer. She told me the main thing she has learned so far is how sad it is that so many people live without noticing things around them, and without cherishing what they have. She had been one of those people until her diagnosis. Of course she would rather not have cancer, but she wasn’t given a choice in the matter. She does have a choice about how to react to it — and, she says, she chooses to live as fully as possible in the days she has left. Just like Jamie, and just like my sister Ruthie, the prospect that she may not have a lot of time has made her aware that nobody knows how much time they have.

Why does it take the real prospect of our own deaths to make us aware of the goodness of life? We people are so strange.