Today I attend the wake of a friend’s stepfather. He died suddenly and unexpectedly in just a couple of days. He was the one who was the caregiver taking care of her ailing mother. No one expected him to be the one to be gone today, but here it is. When we think we have life figured out, when we think we know what’s around the next bend we call tomorrow, life has a way of saying “Uh, you don’t know me that well.” Also today a friend is in the hospital with a sudden and severe case of pancreatitis that has become not only extremely painful, but could be life threatening. Compounding that they have discovered an issue with her heart which has slowed it to 30 beats per minute. So, before they can perform the necessary procedure on her pancreas, they will have to put in a pacemaker. I guess this has been on my mind a lot because last night I dreamt I was the one having the surgeries.
These bodies. They are miraculous. So fine tuned. So intricate. Each cell is alive. Each cell is a miracle in and of itself. Our bodies fight outside invaders. They turn random food into energy and into new cells to replace the ones that have worn out. Our hearts beat billions of times from before we are born to the time we die. But, these bodies are frail. They turn on themselves. If the heart decides to stop, the whole thing shuts down. We can go days without water, weeks without food, but only moments without air. I heard the analogy that our bodies are like gloves for our souls. If you stuck your hand into a blast furnace, it wouldn’t last even seconds, but put on a thermal glove and it would last for a little while. Our souls are here for as long as the glove lasts. I think a little better analogy is they are like spacesuits. They allow us to experience this foreign environment. We can last here as long as the suit functions properly, but as soon as the suit is breached, we are no longer able to function here.
The frailty of the body is both a blessing and a curse. The slightest misstep can cause damage that renders the body inoperable. The systems are finely balanced, if they are off just a bit, life cannot be sustained. We never know from moment to moment if they will hold up. But if the body was more robust, we’d be marooned in this foreign environment forever unable to return home where we can function normally without the burden of this clumsy spacesuit. It’s important to maintain it so we can have the best exploration possible, but don’t confuse the spacesuit with the astronaut. When we are done with the suit, we take it off and leave it behind.