Sunday, August 01, 2004

Billy left behind immortality

Why is it that Americans so crave immortality? Well there is no such thing to my knowledge, yet if we could buy it would we? Are we scared of death or the unknown, and if we are not why do we put such an emphasis on youth? The most confusing, lonely, forlorn years of my life are glorified as "the best years of my life" as one of my high school teachers put it. Was she insane? She must have had a better high school experience than I did, I remember sitting in class after she said that scared, and pissed. "If its all downhill from here i am f#$^@!".

The American Indians and Eskimos revere the elderly in their tribes, they knew that they had great wisdom and many years of knowledge that could better their lives. Now we heave elderly into homes and forget their existence.

I "adopted a grandparent" when I was living in Orlando, it was a class project for humanities but even after the semester was over I kept visiting "Billy". I saw pictures of her when she was young and beautiful, full of life and smiles. She told me all about her life; her marriage to her sailor husband who had fought in world war two and her 2 children. The stories were fascinating, and it was as if a book had suddenly come alive, I hung on every word and moral lessons. I will never forget the day when she taught me my biggest lesson, the end of mortality. She stated somberly that her son only visited her once a year and she had yet to see her grandchild. Billy told me each morning she wondered if she was going to die that day, and if not then, then when?

"Isn’t that why I am in here? I cannot leave, I have no freedom, no car, no self administered decision, and I am in here... seemingly just waiting to die."

The bingo room/cafeteria suddenly fell quiet for me when she said that. The wrinkles on her face were soon covered with silent tears and my heart lay upon the floor where she so subtly crushed it with those few words. No one cared, no one remembered her name, the accomplishments were gone, the awards decayed, her dreams forgotten, the love of her life, dead. Her son didn't care. Her friends, gone.

What is to become of me? Of you?
I am reminded of the Rumi when he said

"When you are dead,
Seek for your resting place
Not on the earth,
But in the hearts of men."
-Rumi

She has done so, for me Billy left me with a sense of urgency to love while I still can, create while my hands are not yet frail, give of myself while my heart is not yet full, think while my ideas are still my own, run away while freedom is still an option and set my course so that one day I may remain in the hearts of men, forever.

how ironic that i was dealing with this same topic one year ago (see first entry of blog in 08/04)

7 comments:

Sasha said...

I often walk through the cemetary by my house to remind myself of my mortality.

I feel so rushed to figure it all out, life and love, and beyond. What is important? And how am I, with my 16 year and very few life experiences, to judge this?

Jessica said...

It is not just Americans that crave immortality. Immortality is a driving theme for the entire human race. How many major works of art and architecture found across the world were created to immortalize a person or race? Humans seek to leave their mark upon this world so they know their lives were not wasted. It is easy to feel lost and swept along with the currents of life. Making a visible change or impact on people, land, paper, canvas, etc. shows that we did not go quietly into eternity, but made an impact. No one wants to be forgotten.

amelie said...

in turning forty, my comparative world religions prof. had a portrait made. several feet in size, this painting had the purpose of leaving him a legacy, as he thought he had passed his prime and thus would be left without wife and child. he married several years later, yet today this painting hangs in his foyer directly upon entering the house. people crave to be remembered.

Ms. Jagger said...

Reading the story of "Billy" made me think of something that happened a while back. I was in Ecuador a couple weeks ago, for a missions trip, and some people from our group went to a nursing home, just to visit w/ the people cuz no one ever comes for them. One of my friends returned with a story of a lady she was talking to who said that everyday, she just wakes up waiting to die. But that day, she didn't want to die, just because some people she came and visited her. That's just so saddening to me, thinking that these people have no friends, no family, no one left. But they have a lifetime of stories and experiences and no one to hear them. I think God's trying to teach me something, cuz this point was reinforced today when I was visiting my grandma and we were talking, about random things and she was telling me stories about stuff that happened thru her life, now that it's closer to over than to the beginning. It made me think about how short life is, and how someday, not too far from now (ok, so I'm only 18, but in the grand scheme of things) that will be me sitting there, telling my stories to somebody. I want to use my life - especially while I'm still young and can do so much - to love, and experience life, and serve God with complete abandon. So that someday I just won't be another old lady in an old folks home...but someone really did make a difference, and didn't just talk about it. Who helped changed lives and, in essence, the world. Wow...sorry I am totally rambling...I didn't mean to. I short, I'm agreeing w/ Stephen in saying, just make everyday count, don't let them slip away, cuz there's only a limited number of tomarrows.

Anonymous said...

My sister and I were lying on our beds last night, facing each other in our dimly lit room. The night was overcoming the sky, and a heaviness was about that sunset seeping into our window. I felt a sadness...almost a regret. I'm realizing more and more how fast time goes by. This summer was a blink of an eye, almost literally to me.And I have nothing to show for it, bearly. If I keep this innocent naive approach to life, where will my life lead? Suddenly I have a choice to make everyday, whether to leave this childish notion that there is always tomorrow, or begin my race to fame and success before I die. What a depressing fate...but how hard-pressed it is to me. All these thoughts were swimming in my mind, and my sister, normally jovial, seemed quite melancholy.Apparently, these thoughts were also preying upon her child-like innocence.The conversation is already in a haze in my memory, but I remember her revealing the reason for her sorrow: she was realizing the tax of time also.

So, as you did, I feel that surge, the restlessness within to do something. To run, to scar the world somehow and imprint my name in stone.For some reason, I'm shocked that I will be 16 soon. And I'm shocked that I have so little time...

~Hannah S.

Anonymous said...

My sister and I were lying on our beds last night, facing each other in our dimly lit room. The night was overcoming the sky, and a heaviness was about that sunset seeping into our window. I felt a sadness...almost a regret. I'm realizing more and more how fast time goes by. This summer was a blink of an eye, almost literally to me.And I have nothing to show for it, bearly. If I keep this innocent naive approach to life, where will my life lead? Suddenly I have a choice to make everyday, whether to leave this childish notion that there is always tomorrow, or begin my race to fame and success before I die. What a depressing fate...but how hard-pressed it is to me. All these thoughts were swimming in my mind, and my sister, normally jovial, seemed quite melancholy.Apparently, these thoughts were also preying upon her child-like innocence.The conversation is already in a haze in my memory, but I remember her revealing the reason for her sorrow: she was realizing the tax of time also.

So, as you did, I feel that surge, the restlessness within to do something. To run, to scar the world somehow and imprint my name in stone.For some reason, I'm shocked that I will be 16 soon. And I'm shocked that I have so little time...

~Hannah S.

michael said...

did this encounter inspire the song paperthin hymn? because it seems very connected.