with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed. —Lucille Clifton
Some weeks it’s easier than others to write a post appropriate for a blog titled Defeat Despair. This has been one of the more difficult weeks. I had Clifton’s brief but stunning poem— which ends with the quote above– tucked away in my memory for just such a time.
Over thirty years ago, not long before I lost the first of my friends I would lose to cancer, I asked this particular friend– a young mother with three children, including a toddler Drew’s age– what the latest doctor’s visit had told her. “He said that the bus is still behind me, but it’s not catching me yet,” she told me in a matter-of-fact tone. “But when you think about it, the bus is behind everybody, whether they know it or not.”
Life is a fragile, unpredictable gift. Some battles are harder than others, and while some fight literally for their lives, others of us are blessed to fight only for our sanity, or our self-esteem, or our financial stability, or our ability to make some sense of where our lives have led us. But it’s only a question of degrees. The old adage about everyone you meet fighting a hard battle is really true, I think.
However, some fight not only for themselves, but for others whom they may not even know. Some truly do face life-threatening circumstances, yet continue on because they are called to higher priorities. Their stories inspire those of us who are struggling with lesser burdens. In that spirit, I wanted to share a recent news story with you, in case you have not already heard it.
Remember Dr. Kent Brantly, the devout young physician who made international headlines when he contracted the Ebola virus while treating patients in Liberia? Now well and fit, Dr. Brantly and his family (including his wife, who is a nurse, and their two young children) are leaving their Texas home to return to Africa to offer health care services in a region where they are urgently needed. The Brantly family is sacrificing more than the comfortable life and relatively high income of a physician’s family in the United States, but when you read of his determination to overcome his own fears in favor of compassion, I hope it lifts your spirits as it did mine.
So today, I repeat Clifton’s words inviting us to celebrate survival– our own, and everyone else’s. It’s not a lighthearted party, to be sure, but those who choose to join us will find themselves in very good company indeed.