eighteen months or so into this virus and i’m still wondering:
what is our relationship with COVID? and what it might look like to be in right relationship with this virus?
and underneath these questions: what is our relationship with life? with death?
stephen jenkinson talks about the death trade, this culture that western society has created and perpetuates that is based on control and fear of death. this death trade is reflected in our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to the elderly; aging and disease; health; and ultimately about that which makes us all human–death.
from in his decades of work as a hospice care worker, he tells stories of how much energy was spent on trying to deny and work against the very thing that is untenable. the desperate attempts to control the thing that is uncontrollable and in so doing, denies us Life. one story in particular stands out: he tells of working with a family of an eight-year old girl who was dying. the family was terrified, grieving, overwhelmed. their fear–and he says this is the primary fear of those facing death–is that she was robbed of life. she did not have a chance to live fully–the life she should have had. and so, the fear begs the question: what does it mean to live? to have a life? so he offered to ask the child. the family agreed, grateful and relieved.
he tells of entering the child’s room and shares with the child that her family is struggling. knowingly, the child said, “yes, they don’t want me to know i’m dying.”
he went on, “yes and what scares them is that you haven’t lived, that you haven’t had a chance at life.”
the child’s wise eyes looked at him, confused.
he proceeds in asking her, “give me a couple of examples–stories that will show them how you have lived.”
she thought for a moment then offered, “well, you know one time I rode a horse.” and he said, “ok, that’s good. can you give me another?”
she continues, “and then I fell off.”
and he said, “brilliant. that’s great. can you give me another?” (thinking, please don’t tell me you got me back on the horse!)
and she then shared, “when i was little (remember she is eight!) i liked a boy next door. one day, a fly flew on his cheek and when i shooed it away, i grazed his cheek.”
this is life. she could not fathom not having lived. in her eight years, she had known only how to live.
the reality is that here, in each and every moment is life. in the in-between, in the ordinary and the extraordinary, in the big and the grand.
we are a year and a half into a global pandemic. countries all over the world in various degrees of lockdown and spread, health and recovery, death and dying. we are all in it. how we move through it determines whether we live or die. and it’s not only a matter of physical death but in the sense of aliveness–spiritual, emotional, whole living.
making decisions these days is challenging–what to do, what not to do. what to risk, what not to risk. it is in the choosing, that we are alive. to brace ourselves against that which we cannot control out of fear shuts us down from being alive.
more than what we choose, i’m interested in how we choose–what motivates our choosing.
do we choose to live dying or die living?