April 16 was the first anniversary of the massacre at Virginia Tech, my alma mater. I was touched by the many ways people at Tech remembered the event—reading poetry, writing memorial letters, creating art on rocks to symbolize “hokie stones,” planting trees to honor the victims—all actions that honor and support and touch the heart. I learned the meaning of courage and grace from Tech students and faculty last year. This year, they offer us lessons in remembering and learning from our darkest hours.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, in his remarks during a memorial ceremony for the 32 shooting victims, challenged us to see the implication of young lives cut short to our own. He said:
“The world was cheated on April 16 a year ago—cheated out of the accomplishments that were sure to come from these 32 lives. These 32 lives were too short. But we all lead lives that are too short. If we realize how short life is, how short our lives are, we will focus on what is important—faith, relationships with family and friends, dedication to great causes and principles, and service to others.”
Our lives are short. What we do with them each and every day makes a difference—sometimes in ways we cannot imagine. You’ve probably heard about how the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can affect the weather thousands of miles away. You never know when one small thing you do sets off a chain of events that produces consequences far beyond your intention.
Governor Kaine articulated the things that matter to him—where he wants to focus his energy in his too-short life. His faith, his relationships, his service—this is how he knows he is giving himself a life well lived. I believe his challenge to all of us is to find the things we value and to live those things every day so that at the end of our lives we can celebrate the short time we’ve been given.