It's taken me awhile to get motivated to answer this question for the Salon, but reading Earthbound Spirit's take on it has done just that. Thank you, my cyberfriend!
Right now my congregation and I are engaged in thinking and praying life back into an elderly parishioner who was about to die. And now, miraculously, he's not, at least not right now.
In an earlier post, I bemoaned the fact that being strong and fit can slow down and make difficult an impending death, that our bodies can be too tough to die easily. As they said about my little Baptist mother years ago, "They're going to have to shoot Mona on Judgment Day." Of course, they didn't; she died peacefully in her hospice bed.
It isn't just Baird's body that is too tough to die; it's his will, his character, his desire to experience everything life has to offer----that's what's keeping him going, making use of the OT, the PT, the speech therapy, learning to make his body again do what he wants, his tongue say the words, his mind do the remembering.
He wants more time; he wants to live a while longer, not strapped down to a bed or chair, but seeing friends and family, making conversation, doing things, seeing things, being aware, touching and being touched. And because he knows we want him to live.
This is a powerful lesson to me about living. Why is Baird still living? Because life is all he has for sure, in all its pain and joy. It makes me rethink the fleeting idea I had about eating bonbons to weaken my body so that I wouldn't have a hard time dying someday. The reason Baird has made this turnaround is largely because of his Viking strength----of body and of mind and of heart.
This morning I was reflecting on last night's contemplative worship service (we call it EvenSong, but it's not like Anglican Evensong or the UU Evensong program), seeing the beloved faces and hearing the beloved voices of the dear folks who were present and who were presenting the service. How much I love them!
And it occurs to me that this is why I live. I live to love people. I live to be useful to them. I live to be a safe harbor for them. And in return, I receive love, I receive their care, I receive the safe harbor they offer.
Yeah, it can go wrong. My love for others and theirs for me can go wrong sometimes; it can be painful, it can have unintended consequences. But that's really why I am here---to love, to be useful, to be a safe place. And my life is an exercise in learning to do that better---to love better, to serve better, to be a safe place to more people, animals, the earth.