A parishioner told me the other evening, “Our bodies have an incredible desire to live. If we give them a chance it is amazing what healing can take place.” At least, that is the paraphrase of what I remember. My mind immediately flashed to my years as a hospice chaplain. Each day brought a round of visits with dying patients – patients who had accepted the option of hopice, which means only palliative care. The majority of my patients were older and most had some form of cancer. What I recall from many, many occasions was how someone’s body clung to life. I have always had a sense of the fragility of life, but I saw there, at the very gate of death, a fierce tenacity that would not go easily. I came to realize that this same tenacity which was sometimes a torment for families and others who stood by, was also a gift. It is the tenacity of our bodies that battles through every cold, every childhood disease – indeed everything we encounter until we encounter our last. I learned to bless the battle, even when we might wish an easier ending – but to bless the battle because it has been a faithful friend for the whole of our life.
There are many things about us that make up the texture of our lives. We are not simple, we cannot be easily codified (if at all) or qualified – and though we label ourselves with medical terminologies and psychological profiles, in truth, we are none of us just the same. I may share a diagnosis with another human being, but neither of us are the same thing as a disease.
Nor can a biography capture who I am or tell the story in a way that is more than caricature. For no one person’s story is free of all other stories. A biography creates a fiction that of necessity leaves out most of the facts – for not even the subject of a biography knew all of the facts. The texture of each life is rich and complicated – deeply intertwined with everything around us.
And like our bodies – our lives want to live. Given the opportunity they want to be whole. It is never the disease that someone has that surprises me. We live in a world of bacteria, errant DNA, and more toxins than at any time in history (or so it would seem). Getting sick is not a surprise. What surprises me is health. And it can be found struggling to show forth in the most amazing of places. What surprises me is goodness and the desire to be kind – both are inherent elements in becoming whole.
This wonderful, rich texture of our existence is for me a reflection of the God who loves us, Who created us and sustains us. It is the texture of a creation that even in the throes of death yearns for life. It is for me, an echo of Pascha that resounds throughout the whole of creation. Death loses its grip as Pascha draws near to us. Lazarus slipped through its cold fingers and came forth from the tomb. One day, the whole of creation will slip through the gates of death and into the glorious liberty of the Sons of Light. Soon, please.