Thursday, July 15, 2010
Not just because of Gertie. This has been going on for awhile now.
Maybe it's a function of middle age, when our bodies start letting us down in various ways (sometimes literally) -- I mean, when my doctor looked me in the eye and told me that she needed to lower my blood pressure because "I don't want you to die of a stroke," that got my attention. As did Fellow Traveler's recent confirmation that the ongoing, intense pain in her jaw that radiates into her ear and down her neck and often keeps her up at night is the result of rheumatoid arthritis eating away all the cartilage between the bone; that this problem isn't fixable by a bite guard; that there may be some serious surgery in her future.
And I'm sure part of it is also due to the sheer number of people we know, face to face and on the Internet, who are fighting life-threatening illnesses. One of FT's high school friends, whom we saw at her recent reunion, had a stroke about a week ago. Right now we personally know a half-dozen people diagnosed with particularly scary cancers, who are undergoing chemo and radiation.
And then there's random, accidental death, like Gertie's. It could have been any of us, in one of our vehicles, making the wrong decision at any second.
Cheery thoughts, I know. But it's been an uncheery day, mostly dark and rainy, and I spent most of it on the sofa, staring out the window.
I'd like to say that I have full confidence in Dame Julian's assertion that, in the end, "All will be well and all manner of thing will be well." But when death ceases to become an abstraction and feels more like a target on my own back and that of my loved ones...it's hard to hang on to a sense that there is any meaning or purpose or redemptive outcome in it. And, I'm sorry to say, the skeptical, deconstructionist Zeitgeist of the last two centuries has so eviscerated the Christian message of resurrection that it's ceased to become believeable for many people -- because there's little sincerity in its proclamation; more of what my pastor calls "anxiety management"; a comforting fairy story, a little nursery tune to whistle in the darkness of the vicissitudes of life.
And let's not even talk about the loss of an animal companion. Outside the circle of people who love and have been loved by animal companions, it's not taken seriously -- not by the Church, not by health professionals, not by employers, not even by family and friends who don't understand. I know a patronizing pat on the head when I feel it.
Fellow Traveler and I have, since Gertie's death, received many personal and heartfelt condolences by individuals. But as far as any practical help from "faith stuff" -- got nothin'. And as far as thoughts of what lies beyond our own mortality -- I don't hear a lot of there there in the Church these days. Not only don't we have the courage of our convictions these days, we don't even seem to have convictions, no matter how many times we recite the Creed or celebrate what we call "the foretaste of the feast to come."
I really do not want to be this gloomy, or to depress other people. But this is what I'm feeling, straight up. Hiding it behind a wan smile and fuzzy platitudes would be lying.