Courage and the Size of the Universe

Went to visit a 96 year-old friend who has broken her hip. Struck with the noise of the convalescent home, crashing, banging and a cheerful porter called Wayne, who I think must be deaf from his volume, with a voice like a buzz-saw and reverberating bonhomie, who seemed to be everywhere – especially the elevators. Have always thought you have to be fighting fit to survive hospital.

In contrast, she lay still on her bed. She held my hand and didn’t let go. “I am so tired.”

Later – watching The Story of Science with Michael Mosely. Was struck at the insignificance of man, ant-like, industrious, questing, emotional in the vast impersonality of a cold, uncaring universe. Remember standing at a friend’s funeral, impacted by the pathos of our tremulous efforts to comfort ourselves. How we sang, prayed, drew together, huge in grief, microscopic in space.

How intolerable the loneliness of our blue earth, hurtling somewhere into infinity. And what doesn’t jibe with this bleak picture is that we, busy on our blue bubble, also show compassion and love. Where does it come from? What inspires it? Why will we die for country, love or belief? This is where, although I accept the scientific picture, the atheist does not make sense.

My back hurts from sitting at the hospital and my friend’s words play in my heart. Yes, she is tired – a deep weariness at the end of life – nothing that sleep will ease. She has done enough, yet gallantly, without complaint, she hangs in there, day after weary day, too tired to do much but wait. Yet dutifully enduring because “what can we do? You just get on with it.” A dulled determination that requires much more courage than valour on a battlefield. The heroism of the old, spinning through space on a planet to nowhere, yet dredging from her last energies the desire “to do it right.” Where does that come from?

And when I stand under an African night sky, drenched in dark, pinprick lit by stars, or on the cottage deck at night, I am not afraid of the space, just lost in its magnificence.

About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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