Amongst the tangles of our time, we have acquired the habit of living without thinking much about the beginning and end of things, and many are the beliefs concerning the origin, the end, and their reasons. We are born and die at the whim of fate as if we were hostages to the secrets of our existence. And thus we live alienated from our wisdom, forgetting what really matters in life.
But what really matters after all?
Our inquiries about the meaning of things have remained forever suspended in the air, as it were, with no answer, for this is an essentially human condition – that of living with many unanswered questions. Without answers, we start to think about eternity. By virtue of imagination, our mind is capable of believing that we will live forever, and our dream that leads us to eternity is infinite. Despite our wishes, however, our world is finite.
In this life, we follow the law of the Universe – the law of finitude – all that begins has an end. Everything that we know and everything that is yet to come will come to an end some day. Imagine anything – a bird, a volcano, a sea, a city, a tree, a hope, a certainty, a kiss, a look – everything that you imagine has its own duration of life.
All that we know and love dies one day. Wherever there is life, there is death, and vice versa. This is the order of the Universe. And there is beauty in this!
When we here on Earth look up to the sky, with its hues of yellow, orange or rose and blue, what we see at a great distance is an avalanche of meteors and meteorites flying aimlessly at the speed of light in all directions, and with countless black holes ahead. But how very beautiful a colorful sky is! And how dazzling, a starry night! So that we may see close up the designs of life, we must withdraw a little from ourselves in order to find a new perspective, a new look or even a new explanation that comforts our soul. I learned this with my youngest son.
I have two children. Twelve years ago, they were separated by a choice of fate. My eldest son, today at the age of 28, lives here on Earth, and my youngest son lives in another world, which I do not know. There, in the unknown, days are not counted, and he is fourteen forever. With time halted in the life of my youngest son, I conceived death as a great silence. Like the end, with no rhetoric.
Imagine coming to know death through your youngest child! In the face of death, we are minute and powerless; it is when our mind is suddenly sprinkled with a sequence of endless questions (with no answers) about life and death, and when dismay and sorrow go on to be our guides.
How is it that we are able to deceive ourselves throughout our lives in the belief that death is always a subject not to be thought about, as if it were something of less importance than life?
There has never been a religion or philosophy that has freed us from death, and even so, we shy away to think of death as part of our lives. We believe that if we do not touch the subject, we will have peace and comfort, and this illusion prevents us from understanding life in all its plenitude. Living as if death were a mistake or bad luck or an injustice that afflicts only a few unfortunate persons does not help us at all.
I lived side by side with death during the twenty months in which my youngest son was in hospital with a diagnosis of neuroblastoma. That is when I learned that sometimes we can hypnotize death with our disposition to fight for life. So it remains quiet and calm for some time longer, and this time that death is calm is our life. My youngest child taught me many things, and one of them is that suffering for the loss of whom we love is inevitable. But he also taught me that we can choose the way in which we want to live – being happy or sad people.
A little before dying, my son said very softly to me (he became deaf and almost voiceless due to the “treatment” he underwent): “Mom, sorry. I’m not going to manage.” He said this looking straight at me and he then lay his beautiful little face on my chest. We were both sitting on his bed in the hospital. Then he said: “Mom, I know it’s going to be hard, but don’t you be sad, all right? Tell this to my brother because I don’t think I will have time to tell him.”
My youngest son died on the following day without having time to tell his elder brother. The generosity of my youngest child in saying goodbye to me so gently and his delicate way of saying that he had come to an end left me speechless. In my shattered heart remained the certainty that I would do everything I could to be happy again one day.
After this last talk with my youngest son, I left the path free for him to die. No one has the power of interfering with death’s will, but when I say that I left the path clear, it is in the sense that I did not oppose to the end, but, rather, accepted that from that moment on, I would be walking in life without my darling youngest child. I had to be strong to take care of my eldest, who had lost his brother, and I recalled the Egyptian wisdom wherein the mother is the lady of the sky, queen of all gods, and who represents strength, balance and hope, in any situation in life.
With my youngest son in another world, I noticed how fragile and strong we are at the same time. Fragile, for we do not choose our fate, and strong, for we accept it, despite everything. To accept your own fate is not a passive attitude; it is a choice, the chance of choosing how to live that which fate offers you. Why give up this freedom?
Why not use our capacity of being happy, out of choice? Being happy is a difficult decision, but it helps us to live through our deepest sorrows, which accompany us throughout life.
Why not be thankful for what we have, before so many miracles that make our life possible? Gratefulness for life should not be a small detail amidst our daily chores, but rather, the most important thing of all. We still understand very little about this world, and we often get mixed up with matters of the soul, which is always in pursuit of the joy and hope that all lives need. Learning to live with serenity to naturally accept the things that make our life easier or more difficult can be a good start for us to find out what matters in life.
In photography, she has been meticulously developing work that provokes us to think about our convictions and our choices. Her work “Time Forgotten” was exhibited in the 10th International Art Biennial in Rome, 2014, and was given third place in the honorary awards.
Photo © Graziela Gilioli, 2015 – Torres del Paine Nacional Park, Chilean Patagonia
This article was published by Projeto Draft /Guest Members
Translated into English by Angela Christine Charity