Monday, October 10, 2005

Life's Loose Threads

Last night, my wife trimmed my hair.

Ordinarily, I sit in silence and a bit of anxiety -- watching the scissors with a fear not entirely misplaced. I've been nicked a few times.

But last night, I talked with my wife. We'd both suffered recently from the flu that's going around Korea. My wife's bout was much shorter but more intense. The night before last, she'd felt nausea and lay awake in that discomfort that comes in waves. After one of those had passed, she felt better but found herself sensing the closeness of death. The experience was very intense, and she found herself realizing, "We're really going to die someday."

I responded with the usual remark that this fact should move us to live more fully the life that we want rather than somebody else's coveted life.

About that time, the phone rang, and my wife learned that a friend had died the previous night.

In that instant, our words seemed to open up dimensions of meaning uneasy to explore.

I thought of Lila, a woman in Germany whom Sun-Ae knew. Lila had worked as the departmental secretary for the German Literature Department at the university in Munich where Sun-Ae was pursuing her doctoral research. She invited us to dinner not long before we left Germany and told of her daughter's death. Her daughter had been traveling in Thailand and had suffered a terrible, fatal accident. At the very moment that she died, her mother back in Germany felt an intense pain and sense of loss, and knew that her daughter was gone.

I suspect that nearly everyone has heard stories like these. They often hang in the air like loose threads that we leave untouched lest in tugging them too hard, we unravel the fabric of our world.


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