I love them. I just do. Doesn’t matter whether somebody’s still inside them or not, I’m grateful to them for however long they manage to keep working. After all, they’re the things that allow us to do what we love most; whisper, cradle one another, laugh. Think, wiggle, climb, and make love. Have babies, go barefoot, gaze up at the stars…and on and on. None of it would be possible if our bodies weren’t willing to step up to the plate and do it all–plus the dirty work–for us.
I fell even more in love with bodies after watching them dying. I had no idea how much they do to try and shield us from the pain involved in the journey. How many natural protections there are built into the physiological functioning of the body itself…neat little tricks like shock, saline imbalances in the blood, lack of oxygen and appetite among others…all things that can help filter, decrease, or numb the suffering involved. These efforts looked beautiful and compassionate to me, kind and loving.
Eventually I realized that bodies don’t die because they fail, they die because they’re designed to die, as intelligently and mercifully as possible, in order to save us from the far greater and unendurable levels of suffering we’d be stuck with if they didn’t.
Anyway, here are a smattering of posts about these dear, generous friends who transport and shield us through our many adventures.
Just before leaving, I returned to the bed, leaned over, and laid my cheek against Mr. B’s, whispering “I sure do love you, sir. Have a safe journey. Knowing you was an honor and a gift.” Then, unexpectedly, I started to cry.
Mr. B no longer looked even remotely lifelike–on the contrary, he looked unearthly. His skin was white and flawless, like fine porcelain. As though an artist had slipped in during the night and shaped an exquisite replica of Mr. B’s face down to the tiniest, loving detail, kissed it, and then left it there against the pillow before slipping away again.
Jews do not leave dead bodies alone. Communities appoint people called “shomrim” — protectors — to watch over the deceased from the time of death until the funeral. It is considered a “mitzvah” — a commanded act — and a holy thing to do…
On the morning that she died my sister and I gathered water, soap, and washcloths by her bedside. We closed the door to the room and together bathed her for the last time, gently touching her arms and legs, her face and hair, all the intimate, beloved parts of her body that had granted us entrance and life so many years ago.
The most dignified people I helped care for weren’t the ones with the best medical care, or the clearest minds, or those who displayed the most control over how they were going to die.
There was a powerful insight I had while watching the Japanese film “Departures” a couple weeks ago but the problem is, I’m still not exactly sure what it was. (Actually, I feel kind of like a quote I found once in a whole oats forum: “The answers we found only served to raise a whole new set of questions. We’re as confused as ever, but we believe we’re now confused on a higher level and about more important things.”) Please bear with me here while I struggle to explain this.
Watching a body separate from the life it’s been housing takes some getting used to. It really does. As graphic processes go, dying has to be up there around the top, and the sights, sounds, feelings, and odors involved require some aggressive acclimation.
Griffon Vulture at Oakland Zoo Photo © Ingrid Taylar Today is the ninth anniversary of 9/11 and, judging from all the anger boiling up in the last month, it seems as a nation that we’re still pretty raw. Forgiveness is…