Death's opposite

I had carried Mia from the bath to our bed and she was scrambling over the duvet and pillows, propelling herself up the piles of pillows and reaching up the headboard when Mom came up: "I was watching videos of Sasha in the last weeks and she looked so sad. She looked confused; she was not happy." Through my tears, Sasha's little sister purposefully and happily stroked Cat and purred herself.

25 years today, a small plane crashed in the Andes. After two months, two of the survivors set out on a final effort to get help. Walking in jeans and sneakers, one of the party recalled the moment he crested a 17,000 foot peak, expecting to see lush green valleys and instead saw ice and snow as far as the horizon:
"I don't know how long I stood there, staring. A minute. Maybe two. I stood motionless until I felt a burning pressure in my lungs, and realized I had forgotten to breathe. I cursed God and raged at the mountains. The truth was before me: For all my striving, all my hopes, all my whispered promises to myself and my father, it would end like this. We would all die in these mountains. We would sink beneath the snow, and ancient silence would fall over us, and our loved ones would never know how hard we had struggled to return to them. In that moment, all my dreams, assumptions and expectations of life evaporated into the thin Andean air. My love for my father swelled in my heart and I realized that, despite the hopelessness of my situation, the memory of him filled me with joy. It staggered me. The mountains, for all their power, were not stronger than my attachment to my father. They could not crush my ability to love. I felt a moment of calmness and clarity, and in that clarity of mind I discovered a simple, astounding secret: Death has an opposite, but the opposite is not mere living. It is not courage or faith or human will. The opposite of death is love. How had I missed that? How does anyone miss that? Only love can turn mere life into a miracle and draw precious meaning from suffering and fear. For a brief, magical moment, all my fears lifted and I knew that I would not let death control me. I would walk through the godforsaken country that separated me from my home with love and hope in my heart. I would walk until I had walked all the life out of me, and when I fell, I would die that much closer to my father."

"Thoughts About the True Miracle in the Andes", Cynthia Boaz, t r u t h o u t, quoting Nando Parrado from "Miracle in the Andes", 2006

I let Parrado's words hang around a bit. The opposite of death is not life, it is love. I have struggled over the last year to understand how we came to the point where Sasha was living and dying, where the two were no longer opposites. We have struggled with our own dim awareness that Sasha was dying, telling CCU that we needed to know that. As if we didn't know it in our heart. There is another old saying: love is blind. Love first lead us to push aside this awareness Sasha was dying, then love lead us to bring Sasha home to die. And now, all we have left of those two tumulteous years is love. Love for Sasha, love for those who cared for Sasha and love for those who travel Sasha's path.

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