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Jewish World Review
Jan. 13, 2006
/ 13 Teves, 5766
When the dead bless the living: A beacon of light to those seeking a ray of hope
To say that coal mining is a dangerous business is trite. To say that coal isn't necessary in this age of diminishing availability of fuel and the correspondingly rapidly increasing prices, is short sighted. To say that the need for coal could be diminished by nuclear energy is right, but not PC at the moment. So coal will be firing our heat and electricity for the foreseeable future. The problem with coal is that much of it looms deep underground, needing humans to retrieve it.
One would think that in this technological age, mining could be accomplished using robotics, cameras, and computers. Then miners could build tunnels, mine coal, and get manicures, while sitting in air conditioned offices. Their families and friends wouldn't worry about their sudden demise due to explosion, suffocation, or gas poisoning. All they'd have to do would be to push the right buttons, and worry about what's for lunch in the company cafeteria.
Alas, even if the Sago mine owners complied with standards, which they didn't, I think everyone would agree coalmining today is a risky business.
BE AN OASIS, NOT A MIRAGE
What I took away from that tragedy was the utter selflessness of those miners, who on their very last brain waves, on their very last wisps of life-nourishing oxygen, on their very last milliseconds of consciousness, spent their dying moments preparing their loved ones and friends for their demise. They did it in such a way that the mystery of their death would now provide comfort and closing to those left behind.
Yes, there was suffering, finger pointing, inexplicable miscommunications, threatened lawsuits, celebrations that amazingly plunged into exhausting anger and depression. It was a roller coaster of every emotion imaginable.
Everyone that has suffered the surprise loss of a loved one will always remember the last moments of their death. They'll recall where they were, the last contact, the last words. Whether the memory was mundane, sweet, or a fight, the experience will be a daily reminder for the rest of their days.
The miners used their last bits of energy to make those thoughts a blessing, not a nightmare.
THE MOST IMPORTANT INHERITANCE YOU CAN LEAVE YOUR FAMILY IS THE EXAMPLE YOU SET IN LIFE
In the case of the Sago miners, those last moments were cushioned by the soothing, comforting words meant to leave the living the lightest load to carry through their years… "We're not suffering." We're going to sleep now." We'll see you on the other side." "We love you." They left enduring memories, spending their last conscience moments focused on the souls of family and friends that remained, instead of their own justifiable lament. I pray that the miners were likewise rewarded when they passed from this life.
Rumor has it that the older miners shared what little emergency oxygen they had with the youngest miner. In appreciating what we know about those brave hearts, it could be entirely possible, if not probable. We'll know when 26 year old Randal McCloy, father and husband, recovers, with the grace of G-d.
The children, wives, parents, grandchildren of these miners are truly blessed. Beyond their extended family, humans everywhere should be buoyed by their noble actions.
I know I will. I'll never forget.
Sleep well sweet princes. Sleep well.
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JWR contributor Dave Weinbaum, originally from Chicago, is a businessman, writer and part-time stand-up comic. He resides in a Midwest red state. Comment by clicking here.
© 2005, Dave Weinbaum