Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Gift of Life

Maya asked me recently how she got into Verna's tummy. I hesitated before answering, "What do you think?"

"God put me there," she said.

Even though I still struggle with whether or not God exists, I didn't see any reason to deny's Maya's assertion. She's not quite six and doesn't engage in the world (obviously) with anything remotely resembling a deeper theological consciousness. Nor is there any point in exploring a detailed presentation of the birds and the bees at her age.

"That's right," I said.

She smiled and we returned to our nighttime routine before she goes to bed--brush teeth, read book, sing song.

But I thought about this conversation this past Friday, January 13, as a friend and I facilitated an intervention with an acquaintance. Her sister had asked for our help.

The sister spoke about years of abuse and how she was unable to help her sister anymore because the sister's own husband is seriously ill. My friend shared some thoughts. Then, without any forethought about what I might say, the words flowed out of me from a deeper place. Normally the words emerge from the murky depths of my brain and I hear them before they pop from my mouth. But on Friday the 13th I got lucky and unconsciously found a voice.

"Life is a gift," I said. "And what baffles me is why you would throw that away. Life is truly a gift and you have this amazing opportunity to live it well for many years. I just don't understand how you can keep throwing it away."

The acquaintance sat stoically as tears welled in my eyes. I understand how substance abuse and addiction are a disease, but at that moment I was completely befuddled. And said so.

The sister picked up on my comments and shared how her son's girlfriend had died when she was 24. My friend spoke of how his father is battling severe kidney problem in his 60s. Both of them emboldened me to speak again.

"Since everyone's getting personal," I said, "I do have more to say. Today is Friday the 13th, and six years ago exactly my late wife found out she had breast cancer. She'd done everything right: she exercised daily, ate well, drank in moderation, but she still got cancer. And then she died when she was 45. She'd have given anything to still be here to be with us, especially her two young children.

The sister was crying now and my friend looked downward. More tears welled in my eyes. I am not close to convinced that any of our words will make any impact on the acquaintance. And I am not sure what I will say to Maya the next time she asks me about where she came from. But I do know this: life is a gift.