We know it, we’ve seen it, we’ve felt it and yet it’s proof often catches us by surprise. Life is fragile. Life changes, it lives, it dies, it takes new courses, it finds new loves. Life can feel strong and powerful, deliberate and bold, but still it can never walk away from this truth; life is fragile and we are fragile in it.
I remember watching my grandfather hang wallpaper at my parents house when I was a child. He was working in the den and came to a corner inside the closet, he took a small piece of wall paper scrap to cover a gap and told me it was our secret how he’d done it. How vivid that memory is all these years and decades later that if that wallpaper ever comes down, I want that corner scrap.
Grandpa died when I was 12 years old. A proud and stubborn man who wasn’t interested in taking the adequate rest after a quadruple by-pass surgery…another heart attack would come and we would lose grandpa forever.
At his funeral, the cars where ordered for the procession to the cemetery and the casket was loaded into the hearse, I watched from inside of the car as my Mom, my Dad and my Mom’s two brothers just collapsed into each other’s devastated mutual embrace.
Life is fragile.
While pastoring a church in California, I had ample opportunities to witness the fleeting quality of life. Late night calls, unexpected passings and vanishing hope as prognosis became clear. I cried with parishioners and by myself. I questioned the universe, God and everything available to question, I felt my fragility, our fragility.
Living in Madagascar, the fragility of life comes into laser focus more often then any where else I have lived. The price of poverty and lack of development is often a lack of access and services which consequently give way to a closer relationship with death, the unknown and choices thrust upon you. I’ve watched caskets transported on top of taxi brousses and gotten choked up as I spoke words of condolence to surviving family members.
But this week that fragility hit me in a new way.
I sent a volunteer home to be with her sick father. We did so with a mix of hope and trepidation and a charge to get back to Mada as soon as it was reasonably possible. We’d cried tears of anger and frustration, tears of sadness and question. She hoped that this was an unnecessary decision to return, that he would be fine when she got back. But he wasn’t. She missed him.
I am overwhelmed by my own sadness even as it pales in comparison to the devastation of this beautiful young women and her family. I didn’t know this man, but I know his daughter and I imagine her pain.
No resource, knowledge or privilege could grant health. And life came to remind us again how fragile she is.
We can be strong and brilliant, lovely and whimsical but times come when fragility is what defines all; our space, our time and ourselves.
Take nothing for granted.
Life is fragile.