Life and Death - the Sudden Paradox

This week has thrown me into a fit of thoughts, all racing through my head at once. Life, death, and the time in between are so closely related, intertwined in one fluid motion that neither constantly moves nor abruptly halts, but always carries away the old in the ebb and always brings in the new with the flow.

I spent the first three days of this week with an 83-year-old man in a hospital bed. He has lived a long life and has fulfilled the temporary needs of his family to the best of his ability. His memories are sharp and on occasion come hurling out of his mouth from somewhere before the war, if he can remember them. Many of his peers have moved beyond this life, but he only flirts with the invitation. This time in the form of an inguinal hernia, but there will surely be others. I wonder how he holds himself together, all 8 decades of him in that frail frame that shuffles when it walks. To him death seems natural, something that we never bring up just like we never bring up the sunset, only when it's spectacular but not just because we feel it coming. Of course the sun will set; that's just natural.

The next day I found myself in the company of an old friend whom I had not seen for years. He's married now and has a child, a little boy who cooed for us but cries for his mom. To feel his little weight in my arms and look into his bright eyes, I felt the newness of life, a light that had just been lit. Not like turning on a flashlight with year-old batteries or switching the light on in the bathroom at midnight, but like a brand new star that was just formed in the black emptiness of space by a great explosion of light and heat and power. Yes, I felt a power in that child. To him life seems natural, it's embedded in his veins and nerves and in every reflex and instinct in his body. Of course his star will shine; that's just natural.

The weekend finds me sitting in the emergency room with a man whose life dangled from a thread. It was nothing but the hand of God that plucked him from the furnace and left him breathing gently on the bed, waiting for sleep and a rest from the terrible night. I watch him looking at the ceiling and I wonder how life and death can come so close in a man of his age. The setting sun that seems so natural to the old and the morning light that radiates from the young met in a paradoxical dance in this man and left me reeling in their burning wake.

He's fine now, just as the 83-year-old and the baby, but I am left ruminating. How am I to comprehend this breach of the quintessential dichotomy? It leads me to ponder the significance of the relationship between spiritual life and death, the proximity of our souls with our Maker. I think this will take some time to mull over and study before I can put the pieces back together. In the meantime, I'll try going to bed before midnight.

1 comment:

Hamatake Homestead said...

Hi Ben,
Thank you for the very thoughtful observance. Very beautiful and thought provoking.
Aunt Jeanene

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)