Katherine Diaz’s death is a tragic, but poignant reminder of what Jesus wanted his disciples to learn from the parable of the thief in the night in Matthew 24:44: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
That warning sadly rang true for the 22-year-old surfer who was struck by lightning Friday while training for the Tokyo Olympics in the waters off El Tunco beach in her native El Salvador, CNN reported.
Diaz was in the water with her uncle and her friend when the weather took a severe and unexpected turn that cut short her young life.
“Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” Beto Diaz, the woman’s uncle, told a Spanish language publication of the moment his niece was struck.
Sadly, that hug would be her last.
“She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly,” he said.
Both the uncle and the friend survived the ordeal, but first responders at the scene were unable to revive Diaz, according to The Washington Post.
The world-class athlete was her nation’s top surfer, and she was vying for a win at the International Surfing Association’s World Surfing Games in order to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
This will be the first year the sport is part of the summer games that had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, and Diaz was hoping to represent El Salvador.
The International Surfing Association announced Diaz’s passing with a “heavy heart” in a tweet Saturday and paid tribute to her.
“Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” the sport’s world governing body wrote.
“She excelled at the int’l competition level, representing her country with pride at both the World Surfing Games and ISA World Jr Surfing Championship.”
Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport. She excelled at the int’l competition level, representing her country with pride at both the World Surfing Games and ISA World Jr Surfing Championship. pic.twitter.com/IdzbvisUrv
— ISA (@ISAsurfing) March 21, 2021
According to ABC News, surfers in her home country were planning a “paddle out” Tuesday to pay tribute to her, a ritual where fellow surfers paddle their boards just offshore, pausing in the waves to share memories of the deceased.
Diaz was only nine years old when she began surfing and was also known in her hometown of El Tunco for her culinary skills.
Her untimely and sudden death is a reminder that our demise is always just a heartbeat away, even for young, healthy, promising athletes.
Like the parable instructs about remaining ready as one would with foreknowledge of a robbery, we should realize that our lives can be cut short at any moment without warning and resolve to remain always vigilant.
We should live each day to the fullest, not in the way this world measures it, but by God’s standards, fearlessly abandoning our lives to his will and following Jesus’ holy and perfect example in everything we do.
The one big assumption we predicate our lives on — either from Satan or as a glitch in our psychology — is that there will always be more time.
We may put off going to church, reading the Bible, loving our neighbor or confessing our sins because there will always be more time — except that one day, the hourglass will run out.
Next week, Christians everywhere will commemorate Jesus’ Passion, following his journey from the betrayal, to his brutal scourging and abject humiliation, through the agonizing journey to Calvary, and finally his death on the cross.
Jesus poured out everything he had so we may have eternal life, and we find the greatest of all hope in his triumph over death in the resurrection on Easter Sunday.
We have time to turn our lives around to be the person God calls us to be, and the Easter season is a time of atonement, repentance and divine forgiveness — a gift we can still receive while on this side of the grave.
Katherine Diaz’s tragic death was the kind of freak occurrence that reminds us that we are not in control of our lives.
However, if there’s one silver lining to such a disaster, it’s the sobering reminder not to waste another precious moment of our lives.
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