I am holding a shard of orange plastic in my hand. I picked it up off the road a couple of miles from my house. I plan to keep it for awhile as a reminder of how fragile the world is. Yesterday afternoon this piece of plastic, the sharp edges of which don't feel quite comfortable in my pocket, was part of a motorcycle that rocketed my friend's son from this life to the next. This little piece of plastic that I picked up from the busy intersection, while traffic rushed on as if nothing had happened, this little piece of nothing was part of the world that shattered for Kappel - instantly they say, mercifully - and with him, the world shattered for my dear friends Curt and Tish, their daughter Lily, his friend Caleb, and hundreds of others whom I can't name. Kappel very likely did not know how essential he was to so many, but his death is unraveling the world for those who loved him and for those who loved those who loved him.
In that respect Kappel is not unique - except to those who love him. Nor is his loss unique - except to those who love him. My friend Greg's son, who also died on a motorcycle, was just as precious to many, many people. So was my friend Dan's son. So is my own son and my daughter, both still living, thank God. In fact there is not a person on whom the world has not turned for someone else. That is the value of life. It blazes bright while we live, but in a way, it blazes even brighter when we die because then the contrast between presence and absence is most striking.
In death, we are all reminded how much a young man like Kappel matters to us. It doesn't matter whether he thought he mattered, whether he even tried to matter. He did matter. The shattered world at the end of his life proves it. The weeping friends and family prove it. The shard of orange in my hand proves it.
You matter. If your life doesn't prove it to you, your death will prove it to the rest of us. You will be missed. Burn as brightly in life as you can, so that when you die, the flame will rise even higher.