A Short Kind of Death
Silas Lesnick
Our actions determine who we are and, in turn, who we are determines our actions. One thing I’ve learned is that if we lose track of who we are, we lose track of where we’re headed in life. I once have a friend who lost track. He ended up forgetting who he was in an experience that would change us both forever.
For five years, we were best friends. We shared a love of comic books, action figures and Star Wars. We through a going-away party for our local comic book store when it closed. We were inseparable, he and I, and there was a time when it seemed nothing could tear us apart.
And then one day, it all began to change. Slowly and gradually, he turned away from it all. He stopped reading comics and watching movies, and we grew further and further apart. He sacrificed his identity for a darker future. He became involved with drugs, and I watched while, over a period of about a year, he degraded from a creative, straight-A student to someone who was failing all his classes from skipping too much school. All the while, I could do nothing but ignore the fact that I was losing my friend.
I realized after the fact that I had let him slip away. I trusted he would find his own way back and pull through it alone. I abandoned him when my help could have made all the difference. I realize now that one can’t always expect things to turn out all right. Unless we take action and shape our present, we must accept whatever future we arrive at. Perhaps if I had spoken out and forced him to realize where he was headed, he would have tried to change paths.
But I also realize that I wouldn’t allow what happened to him happen to me, and it’s scary to think how easily it could have. Looking back, I’m determined to learn from his mistakes. The last thing I want is to abandon who I am. My identity makes me happy. I look at myself and that makes me appreciate life. I have confidence in my in individuality, and the last thing I want is to serve as a haunting reminder to someone else.
The art of living is to know when to hold fast and when to let go. For life is a paradox: it enjoins us to cling to its many gifts even while it ordains their eventual relinquishment. The rabbis of old put it this way:' A man comes to this world with his fist clenched, but when he dies, his hand is open.'
  Surely we ought to hold fast to life, for it is wondrous, and full of a beauty that breaks through every pore of God's own earth. We know that this is so, but all too often we recognize this truth only in our backward glance when we remember what was and then suddenly realize that it is no more.
  We remember a beauty that faded, a love that waned. But we remember with far greater pain that we did not see that beauty when it flowered, that we failed to respond with love when it was tendered.
  A recent experience re-taught me this truth. I was hospitalized following a severe heart attack and had been in intensive care for several days. It was not a pleasant place.
  One morning, I had to have some additional tests. The required machines were located in a building at the opposite end of the hospital, so I had to be wheeled across the courtyard on a gurney.
  As we emerged from our unit, the sunlight hit me. That's all there was to my experience. Just the light of the sun. And yet how beautiful it was -- how warming, how sparking, how brilliant! I looked to see whether anyone else relished the sun's golden glow, but everyone was hurrying to and fro, most with eyes fixed on the ground. Then I remembered how often I, too, had been indifferent to the grandeur of each day, too preoccupied with petty and sometimes even mean concerns to respond from that experience is really as commonplace as was the experience itself: life's gifts are precious -- but we are too heedless of them.
  Here then is the first pole of life's paradoxical demands on us: Never too busy for the wonder and the awe of life. Be reverent before each dawning day. Embrace each hour. Seize each golden minute.
  Hold fast to life...but not so fast that you cannot let go. This is the second side of life's coin, the opposite pole of its paradox: we must accept our losses, and learn how to let go.
  This is not an easy lesson to learn, especially when we are young and think that the world is ours to command, that whatever we desire with the full force of our passionate being can, nay, will, be ours. But then life moves along to confront us with realities, and slowly but surely this truth dawns upon us.
At every stage of life we sustain losses -- and grow in the process. We begin our independent lives only when we emerge from the womb and lose its protective shelter. We enter a progression of schools, then we leave our mothers and fathers and our childhood homes. We get married and have children and then have to let them go. We confront the death of our parents and our spouses. We face the gradual or not so gradual waning of our strength. And ultimately, as the parable of the open and closed hand suggests, we must confront the inevitability of our own demise, losing ourselves as it were, all that we were or dreamed to be.
I Wish You Enough
By Bob Perks
I never really thought that I'd spend as much time in airports as I do. I don't know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I'm not famous, even though I do see more than my share of airports.
I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to(归结为) 'hello' and 'goodbye.'
I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding(冲击) sensation(感情) in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected(感动) so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths.
So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure(想,考虑) nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye.
Watching people cling(依偎) to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart(分开), extending(伸展) their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.
But I learn from goodbye moments, too.
Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure(启程) and standing near the security(安全) gate, they hugged and he said, 'I love you. I wish you enough.' She in turn said, 'Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy.'
They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude(闯入) on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, 'Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?'
'Yes, I have,' I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.
So I knew what this man was experiencing.
'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?' I asked.
'I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral,' he said.
'When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?'
He began to smile. 'That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.' He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more.' When we said 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain(支撑) them,' he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory.
'I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough 'Hello's' to get you through the final 'Goodbye.'
He then began to sob and walked away.
My friends, I wish you enough.
一杯牛奶的温暖(A Glass of Milk)
One day, a poor boy who was trying to pay his way through school by selling goods door to door found that he only had one dime left. He was hungry so he decided to beg for a meal at the next house.
  However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door. Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?”
  “You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught me never to accept pay for a kindness.” He said, “Then I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but it also increased his faith in God and the human race. He was about to give up and quit before this point.
  Years later the young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where specialists can be called in to study her rare disease. Dr. Howard Kelly, now famous was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately, he rose and went down through the hospital hall into her room.
  Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room and determined to do his best to save her life. From that day on, he gave special attention to her case.
  After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it and then wrote something on the side. The bill was sent to her room. She was afraid to open it because she was positive that it would take the rest of her life to pay it off. Finally she looked, and the note on the side of the bill caught her attention. She read these words...
  “Paid in full with a glass of milk.”
  (Signed) Dr. Howard Kelly
  Tears of joy flooded her eyes as she prayed silently: “Thank You, God. Your love has spread through human hearts and hands.”
If I were a Boy Again
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