Loving What’s Mortal

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”  ~ A. A. Milne, (Spoken by Winnie the Pooh).

As I was getting my grandson Sam ready for bed the other night he turned to me with a look of deep concern and asked, “Are you going to live forever?”

Wow! What a question.

Because It came with a troubled look I recognized it was no laughing matter. I wasn’t quite certain how to answer so before responding, I  pulled him onto my lap and gently rocked him back and forth. 

Sam may be a child but his question wasn’t childish. He was asking a profound question at the heart of what concerns us most of all. Why does life have to end?

I continued to rock him and thought to myself, “Dear, dear Sam, you’ve officially gotten yourself into the game of life.”

Not surprising, during this pandemic-ridden time mortality has been on the minds of many. So many have died, some even near and dear to us.

Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, whom I got to know in college, had an interesting take on this question. To suspect your own mortality is to know the beginning of terror. To learn irrefutably that you are mortal is to know the end of terror.” 

Another, unattributed, quote that I especially like:  “if you truly want to be here on this earth you must first be fully mortal; before you’re a spiritual being, you’re a mortal one, before you can detach from the world you must be attached.”

I realized how attached to the world I am through this little guy. I don’t want to leave it, and I don’t want to leave him.

So as I continued rocking Sam, I stroked his little head and finally gave him my answer. “No, Sam, I won’t live forever. When your body gets old it wears out and someday it just stops working, just like the old tree in your backyard and your old dog, Patches.

“You see, Sam, nobody gets to live forever. When people we love die we get very sad. It’s hard to not be able to touch them and talk to them.

“But here’s the thing. It doesn’t mean you stop loving them, or they stop loving you, or you lose your memory of them. You can call on those memories anytime, day or night. Grandpa may not live forever but he will love you forever.”

Sam quietly took in what I said, and then got back to the important business of deciding which toys to take to bed.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

~ Excerpted from Blackwater Woods, by Mary Oliver

Now, Sam, it’s time to go to sleep. This little talk on the end is just the beginning of our talks, just the beginning.

Just a thought…


Copyright © 2021 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.

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