Now, breathe out…
“His body is letting him down.”
We say this about a person who is getting old or becoming sick with an incurable disease. Why? Isn’t the end of life death? Are we not all born to die? We know that death is inevitable – so why do we treat it like it’s not? Why do we act like our bodies are supposed to remain young and healthy forever – and then, when they begin to age or weaken through illness, why do we act as though we have been betrayed? Betrayed by whom?
Nobody is promised endless youth and health. Nobody is promised a life that won’t end with physical death. Nobody.
It’s like we’re all delusional, in a way. Some say that religious people suffer from wishful thinking – but, it seems to me that almost everyone in mainstream culture is suffering from that. In my experience, religious people know that suffering happens. Death is coming. Catholics are certainly reminded of this quite often, invited every day to contemplate the suffering and death of Christ, uniting our sufferings with his, gazing upon the crucifix. And every year, when the Lenten season begins, we (and other Christians) have ashes put on our foreheads and are told “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Suffering happens. Death will come. Not even God Incarnate lived a human life without it.
Religious people, therefore, can be more realistic when it comes to the body and physical illness or disability. We can be less foolish than those who expect their health to never diminish or who will not accept life unless they can live it in an independent and healthy way.
Reason to Live and Love Not Dependent upon Independence
I’ve never been independent. I’m 42 years old and still live with my parents, needing them to help me with the basic necessities of survival. My body has never functioned as the human body is ideally designed to function, for I have a defective gene. And, yet, I love life. I love life here on this beautiful earth and am loath to leave it. But, I know that I must.
We all must. It’s sad, yes, painfully sorrowful… And, it’s scary. Even for people of faith who believe in life after death, who believe that their souls are immortal and that they will know – by the grace and mercy of God and with their loving acceptance of that mercy and grace – eternal peace and joy, yes, I say, even for religious people dying is scary. But… I know that death doesn’t have to be, that it shouldn’t be, frightening.
Death is as natural as life. Dying is as important as living.
The Fullness of Life
It’s good to breathe in deeply while we are living here on this terribly beautiful creation we call Earth, to take in the love and the wonder as best as we can while we can. Learning to really love is the best part of being human – and that means loving through all of life: the dry, barren times, the deep, awful pains, the horrifying shocks, the bitter sorrows, the excruciating difficulties. How can you truly love something if you don’t fully love something? Can you honestly say that you loved a person if you stopped loving that person when things got difficult? Love is not merely a feeling, love is a choice – a commitment, a surrender, a whole-being experience of the fullness of life, the fullness of being alive.
And so, we could say that, to be fully alive, one must be willing to suffer….
We’re going to suffer anyway.
Seven weeks of different illnesses has shown me that I really don’t like suffering. I’m not very good at it and I don’t want it. I will avoid unnecessary suffering whenever I can… But, if the suffering is an unchangeable part of my life, then so be it. Although I really do understand the desire to end the suffering of a terminal illness and speed up the dying process by overdosing, I will not quit out on life before life is over. And I pray to God that I have the strength to remember what is real, what is full and true if this circumstance ever befalls me. I have a little life to live here on this earth and I am going to live all of it to and through the very end.
Sick though I have been, and though my strength weakens every year, I have never felt betrayed by my body. I love my crippled little body as I love myself – crippled and little. It is true that I have been very grateful for the healthy and strong workings of my mind – but, if I should ever become mentally altered through illness, I hope that no one will believe that I am no longer myself. My body, mind, heart, and soul all constitute one person – me, in whatever shape I am.
Life is beautiful.
When one breathes, one must exhale. When breathing in deeply, very deeply, until it hurts, exhaling is natural and welcome.
Inspiration and expiration are equal and essential parts of breathing.
© 2017 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.