This weekend was the anniversary of the worst part of this.
Between that anniversary and my thoughts about struggles two people I care about are undergoing, I've been wondering about life after.
Twice in my life I have truly thought (and others have thought in those times as well)that I was going to die immanently. I've written about these before, but I just want to briefly describe them here: The first time, just after Little Bun had been delivered safely into this world against all odds, I closed my eyes and slipped away, and when I came around still in this world, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. This feeling didn't leave for a long time; neither did the sense that there was an invisible barrier between me and everyone else. The post-trauma me looked normal -- once I'd recovered, no mother on the playground could have guessed that I had looked at death, my own or my son's. Sometimes I wanted to tell random people that I wasn't LIKE them, to out myself as alien to this world now, as someone broken who couldn't be whole. Eventually we put those pieces back together, and I felt myself again, though a different self.
The second time was different -- I had already survived one trauma, and integrated it (or so I thought) mostly successfully into the rest of my life. It became one part of my story. It didn't consume me anymore. The second time was different, too, because the only one at risk was me, which was far more manageable (though rather than scared I was sad for my children). But it was also different in that no one dared tell me that "Things happen for a reason," as they had so often during my perilous pregnancy. This random bad fortune indeed appeared so patently random that no one tried to impose meaning for me.
I was left to do that on my own. I don't believe that things always happen for a reason, outside of the reason that in this world bad things happen, and it's by grace that so many *good* things happen too. But if there isn't an inherent meaning in illness, that does not mean that there are not lessons to be chosen by the sufferer, or meaning to be made -- not of being ill but of _being_.
This time the lesson seemed clear to me: I had made such safe decisions, and catastrophe had found me anyway. I had never lived life avoidantly -- we had taken on some pretty big challenges -- but I hadn't exactly lived dangerously. (I still don't). But I did have to think about what it means to live, which most people can take for granted because they have not thought about death.
I was thinking about this yesterday as I drove, getting nowhere but making notes to myself like "read Victor Frankl." ("Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.") Then I heard Tim McGraw: "I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing . . ." and I cried. Note that I am not a sap, and I hate obvious manipulation -- you, Josh Groban, you. Yet while McGraw is far less eloquent and elegant than Frankl, I wondered what's my equivalent of sky diving -- and more importantly, what it means to "be responsible" to life.