A friend had a stroke last week. Two, actually. Neither did much damage, thank God. But it was enough to put him in the hospital, then in rehab and scare the bejeebes out of his wife. A burp of AFib was allegedly the culprit but as I discovered years ago, it’s often hard to know.
It’s often the things we don’t know that kill us—or at least badly wound us: the slow-growing tumor, the creeping blood pressure, the speeding car we can’t see, the affair that destroys our marriage.
Life is fragile; we all know that. But if we know it’s fragile, why are we so rough with it? We piddle-play with time, always thinking there’s more. We treat our bodies with indifference until we hit a wall and end up in the hospital or the morgue.
And relationships. How rare is it to consciously honor those? Someone loves us and as soon as we know they’re not going anywhere, we disrespect them. Not by having an affair per se, but by toughening ourselves against the sweetness of it. We cling to our aloneness (calling it independence) and push against the beauty of the joining until the loved one feels shut out or shuts down and responds (in self-defense) with their own acts of otherness.
Kids! (Good Lord don’t get me started! Oops—too late.) We birth them; we feed them. We pay for health care, dental cleanings, sports teams, musical instruments, summer camps, clothes, and eventually a car only to have them turn sixteen and scoff and stomp against our wise words like they’re interacting with an idiot. Sure, you gain your IQ back bit by bit, year after year once they hit 21, but still, it hurts, doesn’t it? The day comes when they want to fly the nest (or you’re ready to kick them out of it) and it’s hard to remember the love. It’s awkward, or if it’s badly handled, terminal.
Maybe we should all wear a stamp with big red letters that says: FRAGILE! HANDLE WITH CARE. Maybe that would help us remember just how precious we are. How precious this time is. How precious every soul in our lives is (and I’m including pets here). If we remembered, maybe then we would be kind and careful.
There’s lots of angry separateness in our world today but my friend’s stroke cast a pebble in a pool its ripples reminded those of us close to him to make the most of our love and our time because this is not a dress rehearsal; this is our life.