Thursday, February 16, 2006

Life is short, and long

Shortly before I left the law firm, one of the partners was diagnosed with leukemia. Now I had been there so long, the partners were like part of my extended family so it made the choice to leave town all the more distressing. For weeks, I didn't get any news and I was left almost a thousand miles away, to worry in lonely solitude. When he got the blood transplant, they found the cancer center had a blogging platform made available to the patients called Caring Bridge and started a blog of their own. It was such a relief to keep up on developments without feeling like you were burdening them with inquiries and the comment section became a community of friends and family, pulling together to offer moral support.

It's been over a year now and they don't post as much now that Jonathan is in the stage of treatment where one just wants for improvement and lives through the discomforts of graft host diseases. Nonetheless, I check the blog first thing every morning. Almost dying has changed him. He's become more thoughtful, somehow more deep, although he was never shallow. And now he has time to be more creative. He wrote this poem that I found so moving that I'm going to reproduce it here. The formatting isn't quite right in this font but it's good advice for all us, even if we're not facing such an uncertain future.

Approaching 60

As we approach 60:
Death is in the air,
Illness is in the air,
Pain is in the air,
Loss is in the air.

As we approach 60:
Marriages are in the air,
Grandchildren are in the air,
Wisdom is in the air,
Intentionality is in the air.

Most of us will live for twenty more years; some for forty; whether we want to or not.
Some with more joy than sadness,
Some with more sadness than joy;
Most with an uncontrollable mixture of ineffable sadness and wondrous joy.

Sixty is a construct; it does not exist; you cannot see it.
On your sixtieth birthday you are no different than the day before or the day after;
And the death, illness, pain, loss reminds us that while 60 does not exist, neither do we,
Except in relationship to the world and those around us; and
That now is the time to savor those marriages, grandchildren, wisdom
and intentionality
which so many never experience or appreciate, and
Which we won’t experience again, once the curtain falls on the final act of this play.

By Jonathan Zachary Souweine


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