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"I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man

"Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand."

-- Bob Dylan

The week started in a way you never want a week to start. You know when you get a phone call from a distant family member at an odd time of day and right away you know something is wrong? Seriously wrong? "Your sister has just been admitted to the emergency room with high fever and nausea," the worried voice announced. "They are running tests, and I'll call you just as soon as we know something." What are you supposed to reply to something like that? I hope it's not the coronavirus? Let me know if she doesn't make it? What did I really say? To be honest, I have no idea. But I couldn't escape the thought that my sister could die.

The year started in a way you never want a year to start. You know when you get a phone call from your daughter who instead of saying "Hi, Dad" starts instead with the statement: "Did you hear the news about Aunt Lori? Stage 4 lung cancer. Highly advanced. Life expectancy average for her type of diagnosis is about three to five months." What are you supposed to reply to something like that? I thought of Lori's adult daughter with Down syndrome who is in her full care. Her daughter is like a living embodiment of love and wonder. I had danced with her last year at my daughter's wedding, which was a delightful moment. All the happiness and joy I felt about the wedding was reflected in this young lady's eyes. The first thing I thought was, "Who is going to take care of her if her mom dies?"

The month started in a way you never want a month to start. You know when you call a friend who has been battling glioblastoma, the same brain cancer that killed Sen. John McCain, to see how they are doing, and they start the conversation with the reply: "Not very well. I just learned the radiation treatment has destroyed 30% of my hearing, and I now have a constant ringing in my ears that never stops." What are you supposed to reply to something like that? Any chance they are wrong? Wow, that sounds really bad? What did I really say? To be honest, I have no idea. To my best recollection, I simply kept repeating, "I am so sorry to hear that."

People die. They always have. Always will. Sometimes we think we can outrun it. Woody Allen once said, "I am not afraid of death. I just don't want to be there when it happens." The poet William Cullen Bryant called death an innumerable caravan that each of us shall take part in just like a pleasant dream. One thing is for sure, however: The living remain, even despite us, even despite our worst fears.

My sister's condition turned out to be a kidney infection that I'm happy to report is under control. Lori is currently in remission with her cancer and asks for daily prayers. My friend has learned that hot weather causes the ringing to stop and is looking at a move to Florida. And so, life goes on in times like these. We will learn to live again. We take our broken limbs and keep walking. And together we will fly, as our ancestors before us, into the light of the dark black night.

NAN Our Town on 03/19/2020

Print Headline: Life goes on even during hard times

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