It’s Memorial Day, but it is also my son-in-law Cristhian’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Cris! I haven’t seen Cris and Shelby and Nico in months. So Saturday, the first nice day we’ve had weather wise in a week or more, I decided I would drive over to the Willamette Valley to deliver birthday presents in person.
Nico has a birthday this week, too. With the help of the staff at Paulina Springs Books, I was able to find some pretty special gifts. Cris has a doctorate in the science field, so I was delighted to be able to introduce him to one of my favorite science writers – Oliver Sacks. Do you know Sacks work? Do you have a favorite of his? Sacks was in the medical field, whereas Cris is in the engineering field, but both share an endless curiosity about the world:
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure. – Oliver Sacks
A thinking animal.
Not all can make such a claim.
As we sat on the porch, socially distancing, wearing masks at times, we discussed how it seems too many humans find thinking bothersome. They exert more energy into making up excuses about why they can’t learn, don’t want to learn, can’t think, don’t want to think. They mock those who would learn and think. I just go with my gut, they claim.
So they venture out into crowds sans masks and in violation of the recommendation of nearly every medical personnel who has dealt with Covid. For some this will be their last ever Memorial Day. Some won’t live to see the Fourth of July.
“When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.” – Oliver Sacks
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God …
A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky “powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death.
This Memorial Day let us be especially mindful of the lives gone before us. The sacrifices made, the suffering endured, the stories lived out and those cut way too short.
And may we be ever curious and grateful for all of our days, even during the hard seasons.