This Memorial Day weekend (in the USA) seemed like the perfect moment to revisit this poignant, tender post by Brooke, and also the stunningly beautiful essay she references by Brittney. It was originally published in June 2007.
Will we ever completely fathom the miracle that is the body? Do we comprehend the extent of wonders that happen just beneath our skin by systems we cannot see but trust are there? Unless we go underwater, we breathe with little notice; unless we put two fingers to our neck to catch a quickening pulse, we rarely sense our heart beating. We don’t will our body to live– it just does.
The mortal body is a blessed concoction: heaps of bones, clusters of cells, lengths of muscles, rivers of blood. And while amazing in it’s capacity, still a physical limitation. We will not take it with us. We don’t get to keep it. Though divinely conceived, the body is just flesh and eventually it will betray each of us, and we will die.
In Brittney’s beautiful essay, Barcelona, Venezuela: 1998, she tells a tale few have experienced up close. If you haven’t read it, you should; if you have, read it again. I can’t stop reading it, for it’s heartbreaking and breathtaking and visceral, filled with so much truth, so much pain, so much color. And so much life.
Even as we rejoice in the physicality of the body, we accept that mortality is wrought with pain. To produce life, we bleed and ache and suffer, to die (in some instances) is perhaps the same. When loved ones lay across the thinly veiled chasm between two worlds and we witness the process of dying, the natural tendency is to want to “beg with all the faith we have” for life. And we want to bless with the continued marriage of mortal body and spirit even when we “know… there is nothing left.” I’ve been told that sometimes people don’t die until the living give them permission to. We want to have faith in a possibility– a hope for restored health– but we do have faith in the certainty of eternal life as well, and by so doing accept the fact that the mortal body must die to live eternally. As such, even if hesitantly at first, we need to learn faith in our ability to be brave, our ability to let things go.
Brittney attempted faith in the flesh even as she knew the flesh had been defeated and the dear boy lay on the mortal cusp, just moments from his own sort of “living, breathable air” of heaven. She let go of her companion’s hand and gifted her the air outside, that was easy. What courage was required to offer the same for the dying?