Monday, September 8, 2014

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

I think this poem came from Elizabeth's page.  It's how I'm feeling.  There is sorrow everywhere and still I need to enjoy my life.  The sorrow feels too heavy though.  My friend is dying.  I lay in bed last night wondering what is the point of life.  We're born, we live, we suffer, we die.  And in between all of that we love.  I believe that's the point of life, or at least I think I believe that.  I love my friend and still she will die.  She loves her children, her husband, her life and still she will die. 

I know that we all die.  I'm a nurse.  I have taken care of dying patients all of my working life but this is different.  She is not my patient, she is my friend.  One day she will stop breathing.  She will be gone.  Her children will grow up and get married and have their own children and she will be gone from their lives.  Our lives will continue on.  Life doesn't stop for those who are dying.  They take their last breath and life continues on. 

Today we had a young woman, only twenty-one, with cancer and a brand new baby that had to be delivered weeks early so that she could receive treatment.  Last week we had a six year old, the granddaughter of a co-worker, with an inoperable brain tumor.  It's been too much lately.  Do we live only to die?  What is the point? 


  1. I think that's when Buddhism comes in handy, and I imagine the Buddhists would say there is no point and the point is everything. The source of all suffering is clinging, and when we cling to life, to death, etc., we suffer.

    I am sorry that you are having to watch a friend die, that you have had to see so much suffering, particularly of late.

  2. i understand more than i wish i did. i too know about knowing a friend will die. Some days it all makes no sense to me and seems so unfair, and then, other days, yes, it is the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back. thank god i know that too. there are times when i breathe it all in with the birds in my birdbath.

    i'll be damned if i don't do what i can for my own happiness and for those i love and for those who deserve better. most days, i'm glad i know that too.

    still, deb, there are times when too much is too much. hang in, my friend. just be.


  3. I hope this helps just a little.

    "In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it put off enjoying those things that we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby." Alistar Cooke