When death puts life into perspective


(Image via i.imgur.com)

On a personal aside, writing Ghassan Tueni’s obituary today was a particularly difficult exercise in perspective.

A very dear and young (she’s only 26) friend of mine was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Cancer, for lack of a better word, is awkward. How are you supposed to react to that kind of news? Do you acknowledge the fact that your friend is sick, or simply brush it off and do your best to keep things light? Suddenly, the person you were once so comfortable with has become fragile and a bit difficult to approach. Perhaps they appear to be “doing well,” but does that mean you should treat them as though nothing ever happened? It’s like playing a game where the rules aren’t clearly laid out or even acknowledged.

My point is, you don’t really understand how precious and beautiful life is until you or someone you love is faced with not having it anymore.

My friend (in her seemingly infinite wisdom) has taught me this: Life does not wait for us to live it. We must live it now. It takes time, love and dedication. It takes defying people who don’t believe in you. It takes enormous effort to find subtle bits of beauty in the ordinary and mundane. But in the end, you have to do whatever you think you should do, and eventually you’ll figure out what makes you happiest.

The brilliant science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, passed away on Tuesday. I find a huge amount of comfort in his words:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

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