What is it that us humans so easily forget about our mortality? We strive to push harder, become stronger, build higher, and achieve greater excellence. These are the power words we want to flourish our resumes with. We try to defy the hours of the day by minimizing sleep and maximizing our caffeine consumption. We think that if we can just ignore these signs of being flesh and blood that daily grows older and weaker and more vulnerable, perhaps we will beat the odds. But the odds are 0. We are born, we live, we die. These bones will not defy death.
Now you may ask, why such pessism? Should we not embrace the life that we have? Absolutely. But I am reminded in these moments that we can not fully embrace life without countering it with death. It is in these moments that my back aches from a knot that spontaneously appeared. Last week it was right low back, today it is my left shoulder. I am training for this feat of accomplishment: a 30 KM run around the lake in the mountainous trails. It is arduous, but I am committed. I will do this. And then my body reminds me, I am flesh and blood and I am innately a weak and vulnerable being. I am 30 years old; young, but not that young guess what? I’m getting older every day. Which means it is likely that these sorts of ailments will only become more frequent. I try to be healthy and I stay fit; but that only goes so far. Yesterday I could not even lift my daughter. My daughter who I painfully and beautifully gave birth too in the most incredible physical feat of all, only 6 months ago.
It is in having my daughter that I am reminded of the dependency bell curve of life. We start dependent and we end in some level of dependency too. I was pushing my daughter in a stroller when I was running this past week and a middle-age man commented about how we start as we end. From diapers to incontinence supplies. From stroller to wheelchair. And sadly as I am starting to feed my daughter solid foods and she opens wide to tell me she’s ready for more, I am reminded of feeding my grandmother her meals in the end stages of her Alzheimer-ridden life.
I am near the height of the bell-curve and that is why it is so demoralizing that I have an injury. For the most part this body does me so well. I am near the height of the bell curve and so I do not let death hold much real estate in my mind. Foolishly, I was near whimsical during my own mother’s recent health ordeal. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 7 months pregnant. But, immediately she was given the assurance that it was not life-threatening. What an assurance that was! However, in the knowledge of medicine having my mom’s case under control I selfishly found myself thus annoyed that her health would delay her ability to come and visit me and our first born baby. Annoyed not at my mother, but at the situation. Annoyed. I balk at that now as I am reminded of the fragility of life. My mother too, is not that far from the height of the bell curve of life (though granted on the other side of it); but her life is still delicate, just like mine and just like my daughter’s.
When we acknowledge death, life in and of itself becomes fragile. So today I am grateful for the lives around me, for the life within me. And as disappointed as I was that I could not do my training trail run yesterday and my hopefulness for, but uncertainty of completing the trail race itself, I am thankful for the reminder that each action of life from conceiving, to breathing, to sharing life with cherished family, to running up mountainsides is a gift. Just as I am thankful for the spiritual and emotional life that Jesus gives, so too, I am thankful for the physical breath God has given these lungs.
“And the LORD God formed a man’s body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life. And man became a living person.”
[Jesus says] “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away.
My life is no longer than the width of my hand.
An entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
Human existence is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
And all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.”
So I will probably continue to push, become, build and achieve. But I hope my new “life-resume” will begin a little more like this: Cheryl Rostek is an accomplished appreciator of every opportunity she is given and that she creates to cherish the God-given life within her and surrounding her.
Cheesy? Yeah. But you get my point. Now go hug someone you love.