We have a relative who is dying of cancer right now. Without any opportunity to think about it, he found himself in crisis and connected to all manner of tubes and machines in one of those anonymous-looking care centers where they keep you going as if you were a machine without senses.
When I was in the Peace Corps in Uganda many years ago, I learned how close to life death is. I felt very fragile and very frightened. But has time has gone by, I think I have learned a few things. Most especially, living here in Mexico these past five or so years I have.
As in Uganda, death is much more part of daily life. In our colonia, as I've mentioned before, people die with fair frequency, mostly older, but some not so old. Youngish adults die from diabetic complications. Children die, though nowhere near as often as they used to. Not infrequently a group of people knock at our gate for a donation for a velaria, a vigil for the dead. You can give food or money: a bag of beans is even good. You can tell where a velaria is happening. A plastic awning is set up from the front of the house part way into the street. The dead person is laid out inside, tables and chairs are set up outside for those coming to pay respects.
I think it's safe to say that none of the people who die in my colonia spent time tied to life-extending machines. No money for such luxuries. Which is not to say they don't go to doctors and try to take good care of themselves.
People here I know who've lost family to death, they are matter of fact with us. Ni modo they say, it doesn't matter. Esta es la vida. They bear their sorrow privately. And sorrow they bear when the lose a child or a beloved spouse. But life must go on: there is work to be done, people to feed, fiestas to prepare for.
I have learned about life and death from our walks and hikes in the countryside, even our daily runs. Everything eats and and almost everything gets eaten. What doesn't get eaten rots into the soil unless it is some man-made stuff like plastic which drifts and blows across the landscape. Death and life wander the earth hand in hand always.
So I realize I am no more than a leaf, a bug, a flower, a snake, a single cell in the grand or even pretty small scheme of things. And someday I won't be at all, though some of me might find itself in the soil, in a leaf, in a bug. But while I'm here, I hope I can let life flow through me, through my senses. Through my body. What a gift it is. I can fight my demons and try to offer comfort instead of ire. Can I heave a sigh of relief that I am insignificant in the grand scheme of things and share the very temporary joy of existence, even marred as it is with suffering?