Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mt. Athos (St. John)

It had been many months since we last spoke, and yet I remember the light in his eyes, even as his body began to tire of the struggle. "Hitler gave special protection to the monks there", he said, "even as he catalogued their works for seizure".

It was then I thought of how good and evil were so limiting as concepts in describing our experiences on this plane. I could equally vilify either the antibodies or the newly malignant cells and their relentlessness, or marvel at how they have now become points of departure for the kindness in his voice or the lack of fear at what lies next.

All I know is that I don't want him to go, and yet I also realize this is selfish, that we can't hold back one who is ready for that next step. And how could I blame him? In these existences, marked as they are by suffering, why should one not be ready to jettison them?

Looking into his eyes, I saw compassion and acceptance growing like wildflowers, even now spreading to overtake the conflict and turmoil they live among. Before leaving I held him, and felt the brevity of our lives on this plane. In those few seconds, I wanted to learn and feel all that he felt and to see the world through those same eyes.

It then dawned on me that these moments are sacred, even as they are almost immediately swept out from under us. And more than anything else, there was an underlying gratitude, not anger toward any imagined cause of his body's suffering. Gratitude that the flesh and blood we inhabit gives us the opportunity to experience such things as this.

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