Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fragility Of Life

Last Friday, while eating Steak with Avram's family in Virginia, his Dad began choking on a piece. He staggered up, Avram began trying to do the Heimlich on him. He turned red. My sister in law asked if she should call 911. I told her to not bother, because they live in the middle of the country, and they would take too long to get here (it take five minutes to just drive up their private shared road, let alone they're another ten minute drive from the fire station). He turned purple. Avram couldn't do the Heimlich because my Father in law's stomach muscles were too strong, and he was flexing them, trying to make himself throw up (he's a retired Marine, and loves exercise.)

And then, just like that, he threw up, did not pass out, and did not die. My mother in law said as she stood there watching this, she thought, "so this is how people die. Just like this, choking on steak."

Then, on Saturday, my sister's best friend collapsed, and had a pulmonary embolism, and lost her 26 week old baby, and then is dying herself.

And I've been thinking a lot about the fragility of life. How one minute, life can go on as normal, and then the next tragedy happens. Unlike my recent post, I'm not unduly scared of living or life, it just makes me reflect. If I knew I were going to die in a year, would I change my life at all? In a month? In a week? No, not really. Right now I am living the life I want. I am married to Avram, my best friend. We have two beautiful daughters, and I love being their mother. Avram is pursuing his life long dream of a Ph.d. I get to be a homemaker.

The only adjustments I would make would be small ones. I would take more sight seeing day trips. Go camping. Eat all the expensive fruit I love, but Avram doesn't, and so I never buy them - cherries, peaches, watermelon, honeydew. Buy the finicky dessert pans so I can make the desserts I always read about, but can't make. A bundt pan, for the tunnel of fudge cake. Ramekins for Creme Brulee and Molten Chocolate Cakes. Trifle dish. Tart pan. Tools to help with desserts. A sieve. A sifter. A bench scraper. A silpat. A blow torch. After all, I don't need to worry about my long term health. I would get a nice camera, not just a point and shoot, and I would take pictures of everything beatiful, and even ugly things, if they are picturesque. And my girls -they would get the most pictures.

And I would take a trip - to England, with Avram. I'm planning to go for our 15th (or so) anniversary - after he has tenure somewhere. It will be our second honeymoon, and we'll leave our kids at home. I would just take it now, instead. I'll get to see everything I didn't see the first time I went to England - which is just about the whole country. Perhaps I'll even entice him over to Ireland.

I would also pray a lot more fervantly, read the scriptures with vested interest to know what would lie before me, and hope I would go while being in the temple - I can't think of a better place to die. If life is like Hamlet, when Hamlet could not kill his Uncle Claudius because he was praying, and if he died while praying he would go to heaven, and Hamlet wanted him to go to Hell, I want to be in the Temple, in the Celestial Room. 'Cause then my exaltation will be sure, just by being in the right location. Of course, Hamlet is more than a little crazy, so perhaps I should not base doctrinal matters of importance on him.

Oh, and I would also turn on my air conditioning, savings be forgot.

Not that I would ever want to know the date of my own death. Then I would be too busy trying to say goodbye to everything all of the time to appreciate any of this. But it is nice to know that in the essentials, I am living the way I would want to, even if I died tomorrow. In Sha' Allah I will die at age 90, or better yet, will be twinkled* But if not, I am glad that this is the life I am living, and most importantly, I am with my family.

When Avram and I were at the Smithsonian, we went to the exhibit of Western Cultures and the Forensic one as well, both lodged in the Natural History Museum. As we walked from prehistory down to a displayed skeleton of a modern (dead) scientist of the Smithsonian (it was his wish to be displayed, along with his dog's skeleton). I was amazed by how all through human history how much of our time and effort has been spent on preparing for death, working through death, and trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid death and its consequences. I myself in my own way would like to avoid aspects of modern death - I do not want to be embalmed, and I want to be buried in a plain wooden coffin, and not surrounded by lead or a concrete vault, so that I can actually return to the elements. But no matter our wishes, at some point, we will all leave this life, and at that point, will have no more say on what happens to our mortal remains.

Mostly in all of this, I'm grateful for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is because of my religious beliefs that (minus thos pesky ramekins and cherries) I am living my dream life. Because my life is centered around what truly matters to me, and that is my family and having joy - both of which will also exist in the eternities.

*immediately resurrected after death.


  1. I hear ya. A couple of years ago I went to a funeral of a very elderly man. Some of my Aunts and Uncles were there (it was my Uncle's Father in law) well 2 weeks later I was at another funeral. It was the funeral of one of the uncles who had been at the first funeral. He had come up to me there and apologized to me about something that had happened a few months before, something he had already apologized for. He didn't need to the first time, let alone the second time. I often wondered if he had felt that he needed to put things in order. Did he know sitting there at that funeral that 8 days later he would die a sudden death due to a freak accident? Reports from other people in my family included simple things, him bearing his testimony, him reaching out to someone. Doing little things. I wonder if on an unconscious level, one that he wasn't aware of, he knew his death was coming?

    I'm sorry I tried 3 times for it to log me in on my personal account, not my business one. This post was from Heather

  2. Nah, you don't want to go in the Celestial Room of the temple. If you do, they'll have to call in paramedics, which means you will be responsible for requiring the Church to admit people without temple recommends into the most holy part of the temple. How will you repent of that?