I had a near-death experience when I was 38, right after the birth of my third child. While midwives quickly tried to stop my postpartum hemorrhage, I felt myself float away. I didn’t see the proverbial tunnel of light. But boundaries dissolved and I felt ineffable peace. From far away I saw my new baby girl, squalling and red and not five minutes old, and wondered, dreamily, whose baby it was. I let go of everything, and loved everything in the world in equal measure, until the moment I came abruptly back to my own body, shivering uncontrollably.
For years afterward, this was a secret memory tucked away, hardly remembered. But it had a lasting impact: After my near-death experience, I lost my fear of death. Which is why I didn’t expect to feel so blindsided the day my 15-year old son was given a diagnosis of leukemia.
It began as such an ordinary day. While my sons studied for exams, I baked red velvet cupcakes with my daughters. We cleaned the tank of our half-moon betta fish and took the dog for a walk. But when evening came we found ourselves in an emergency room because my younger son, Daniel, who had been achy and listless for the last day or two, was now running a high fever. When the doctors pulled Daniel’s father and me out into the hallway and told us his diagnosis, I kept pinching myself. I was sure I was dreaming.
When I arrived back home the next morning after our long, exhausting vigil at the hospital, I saw those red velvet cupcakes on the kitchen counter and cried. Our family’s future had been upended. All the familiar guideposts and events — school days, family meals, summer travel, the simplest things that mark ordinary time in a family’s life — were wiped away. We were told that because Daniel had acute myeloid leukemia, he would have to be hospitalized for up to half a year for treatment. Beyond that we had no idea what to expect.
“This is the hardest day,” a friend told me on the night Daniel was diagnosed, “because you don’t know anything yet. You will feel better once you know more.”
But that friend was wrong, because that wasn’t the hardest day. It was harder when a doctor told Daniel about his diagnosis. He sat there quietly, taking it all in. He asked just one question, in the bravest voice I’ve ever heard: “Am I going to make it?”
It was harder when we told his three siblings. It was harder when Daniel asked me to wipe tears from his face because he was too weak to lift his own arms. It was harder the day I saw a family filing from another patient’s room, crying silently. The next day the room was cleared out and an empty crib stood out in the corridor.
Sure, I’d conquered my own fear of death. But the potential death of my own child? That was a whole other order of magnitude. When my first child was born, I’d spent the second day of his life aghast at my own audacity for having brought into the world a life that would someday have to age, to die. That feeling was soon blanketed over by the minutiae of motherhood: the feeding, the changing, the first smile, the first step. Every milestone that made my child bigger and stronger took me further away from that early momentary dread.
For so many parents, children are their immortality projects. Our hopes for their future stave off our fears of oblivion. But I knew now that bad things could happen in a moment, that only the thinnest membrane separated before and after.
As we made our way through the terrible milestones of leukemia — hair loss, infections, feeding tubes and transfusions, one endless, brutal procedure after another — I felt lightheaded every time I stepped outside the hospital, blinking in the sunlight, at the ordinariness of people walking on sidewalks, picking up their children from school, drinking coffee in cafes. They looked so strange to me, as though I viewed them through a thick pane of glass. They seemed untouched while we were weighed down by sadness. It felt as though our family had been flung into some strange parallel universe populated only by those who had met with great misfortune.
Who knows if it was some sort of premonition, but several months before Daniel fell ill I’d begun steeping myself in the writings of medieval mystics and philosophers. I had been especially drawn to the notion of memento mori, or “remember that you will die.”
Immediately after Daniel’s diagnosis I shied away from anything having to do with death. Experienced friends told me to stay positive and upbeat and strong. We faced new medical crises every day. To even acknowledge dark possibilities felt like inviting defeat. But soon I returned to my beloved thinkers and found they offered new comfort in a disorienting world. I wanted to understand how to live in a world where death is so ever-present that it animates life.
The idea that death exists alongside life, that it is the constant shadow that illuminates life and gives it meaning, far predated medieval times, of course. For Plato, philosophy was a meditation on death, an idea echoed by Seneca (“let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life”) and taken up much later by Montaigne, who overcame a fear of death through his own near-death experience. Buddhist and Daoist thinkers taught that constant awareness of death enriches our lives. Awareness of our beautiful, ephemeral existence lies behind Japanese cherry-blossom viewing or the Tibetan sand mandala.
Unlike the medieval monks who constructed entire chapels of bones or Victorian families who would ritualistically photograph their dead, in our culture and time it is not fashionable for us to linger on death. Extreme measures are taken to extend life. Tropes and platitudes abound: “Think positive.” See cancer as a “gift.” But I had made peace with my own mortality. Now I found that learning to live alongside even the mortality of a child I loved gave me a kind of strength that denialism could not, because it was a relief to acknowledge something that felt more true. When you realize your time on earth is finite, that we are all “being towards death,” as Heidegger wrote, then time expands.
Hospital time is set apart from ordinary time. Each moment in the hospital feels eternal. For me, having a child in the hospital feels as though time has even slipped backward. Spending all these hours with him has given me a chance to reparent my son: to talk, to hold his hand, to care for him in the way few parents can care for their teenagers who are busy, busy, busy with the business of growing up.
And we are the luckiest of the unlucky. Daniel will recover and come home; I feel guilt when I think of the families whose children will not. But follow-ups and vigilance about a possible relapse or secondary cancer will be our close companions in the years ahead. There can really be no return to the life that once was, just a stark awareness of life’s fragility. Death is a condition of being human.
But today I sit and hold his hand, pale and frail against my own. He shows me card tricks and I feed him all the ice cream and doughnuts he wants. This is what I have right here, right now: the sight of my son before me. By lessening my hold on his future, I have become more open to the present: that beautiful, ephemeral thing.
Christine Gross-Loh, a writer living in Massachusetts, is the author of “Parenting Without Borders” and co-author of “The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life.”B:
“【小】【姐】，【府】【上】【来】【客】【人】【了】。” 【屋】【外】【传】【来】【丫】【鬟】【的】【声】【音】，【上】【官】【翎】【暂】【住】【秦】【府】【同】【时】【也】【买】【了】【一】【些】【丫】【鬟】【回】【来】【打】【理】【这】【间】【宅】【院】。 【客】【人】？【上】【官】【翎】【从】【叶】【语】【身】【上】【起】【身】【边】【穿】【衣】【服】【边】【向】【外】【头】【问】【道】：“【是】【什】【么】【人】？” “【是】【位】【姑】【娘】，【说】【是】【小】【姐】【和】【姑】【爷】【的】【朋】【友】，【姓】【诗】。” 【听】【到】【这】【话】【上】【官】【翎】【回】【头】【就】【瞪】【了】【一】【眼】【叶】【语】，【道】：“【找】【你】【的】，【还】【不】【起】【来】！”
【苏】【倾】【眠】【也】【觉】【得】【想】【在】【梦】【里】：“【不】、【不】【是】……” “【小】【忆】，【你】……”【激】【动】【之】【下】，【顾】【音】【离】【突】【然】【想】【起】【了】【什】【么】，【脸】【色】【一】【沉】，“【你】【刚】【才】【好】【像】【先】【叫】【的】【他】，【是】【不】【是】？” 【没】【等】【孩】【子】【回】【答】，【顾】【景】【白】【在】【一】【边】【说】：“【不】【好】【意】【思】，【他】【先】【叫】【的】【我】。” 【夫】【妇】【俩】【顿】【时】【就】【沉】【了】【脸】，【恶】【狠】【狠】【地】【瞪】【向】【他】。 “【在】【医】【院】【里】，【我】【试】【音】【的】【时】【候】，【他】【就】【叫】【出】【舅】【舅】刘伯温料精选资料彩图128期“【呼】。” 【雪】【山】【之】【下】，【有】【一】【座】【被】【白】【雪】【铺】【盖】【的】【村】【庄】。 【清】【晨】，【一】【缕】【寒】【风】【袭】【来】，【打】【破】【了】【村】【庄】【的】【宁】【静】。 【白】【雪】【村】，【因】【位】【于】【雪】【山】【之】【下】，【常】【年】【被】【白】【雪】【掩】【盖】，【故】【而】【得】【名】。 【村】【中】，【共】【有】【三】【十】【八】【户】【人】【家】，【人】【数】【刚】【刚】【过】【百】。 【村】【中】，【一】【间】【小】【院】【中】，【一】【名】【少】【女】【正】【在】【院】【里】【熬】【着】【草】【药】，【而】【厨】【房】【中】，【一】【名】【中】【年】【妇】【女】【正】【在】【做】【着】【饭】【菜】，【厨】【房】【的】
【郑】【少】【见】【状】【也】【是】【满】【脸】【的】【不】【悦】，【阴】【沉】【的】【脸】【上】【也】【是】【有】【着】【凝】【重】【的】【神】【色】，“【压】【宝】【之】【后】【对】【于】【我】【们】【来】【说】【希】【望】【不】【大】【了】！” 【不】【仅】【仅】【是】【郑】【少】【心】【中】【如】【是】【想】【着】，【其】【他】【的】【不】【少】【人】【也】【是】【瞬】【间】【窥】【透】【了】【其】【中】【的】【道】【理】。 【可】【是】【这】【是】【没】【有】【办】【法】【的】【事】【情】，【一】【切】【的】【主】【动】【权】【都】【是】【在】【奇】【香】【阁】【的】【手】【里】。 “【接】【下】【来】，【咱】【们】【开】【始】【拍】【卖】【下】【一】【件】【宝】【贝】……” 【台】【上】【的】【拍】【卖】
【随】【着】【婚】【礼】【进】【行】【曲】，【苏】【夏】【从】【缓】【缓】【打】【开】【的】【双】【开】【门】【中】【间】【走】【出】。 【一】【道】【光】，【瞬】【间】【追】【随】【着】【新】【娘】【子】【的】【脚】【步】【往】【中】【间】【移】【动】。 【因】【为】【怀】【孕】【的】【孕】【吐】【反】【应】，【这】【段】【时】【间】【苏】【夏】【瘦】【了】【不】【少】，【纤】【瘦】【的】【身】【材】【裹】【在】【齐】【肩】【的】【婚】【纱】【中】，【玲】【珑】【有】【致】。 【特】【别】【是】【那】【一】【对】【漂】【亮】【的】【锁】【骨】，【格】【外】【优】【美】。 【婚】【纱】【长】【托】【后】【点】【缀】【了】【无】【数】【的】【碎】【钻】，【闪】【耀】【夺】【目】，【头】【纱】【比】【较】【素】【净】【简】【单】
【韩】【冰】【打】【定】【了】【主】【意】，【顿】【时】【变】【运】【使】【气】【血】，【连】【连】【攻】【击】【青】【铜】【大】【钟】。 【霎】【那】【间】，【棍】【影】【满】【天】【遍】【地】。 【而】【另】【外】【一】【边】，【李】【默】【闭】【目】【吐】【纳】【之】【后】，【仍】【然】【没】【有】【丝】【毫】【反】【应】。 【任】【由】【韩】【冰】【攻】【击】，【似】【乎】【对】【那】【口】【青】【铜】【大】【钟】【信】【心】【十】【足】。 【根】【本】【就】【不】【在】【意】【他】【的】【攻】【击】。 【韩】【冰】【眼】【见】【他】【这】【种】【态】【度】，【心】【头】【怒】【火】【顿】【生】。 【只】【是】【连】【连】【攻】【击】，【却】【只】【是】【激】【起】【层】【层】【波】【澜】