Monday, April 16, 2007

Death and Life

Unitarian Universalist minister Forrest Church says that religion is our response to the reality that we live and then we die.

I have wondered recently whether perhaps I have been so drawn to religious exploration in part because of that reality. In one eighteen-month period of my childhood, my mother, brother, grandmother's mother, and grandfather's father all died. By the time I was in my early twenties, my first stepmother and an aunt had died, both of them before the age of fifty. I was very much acquainted with death long before I saw a baby born.

This morning as part of my school's Yom Hashoah observance, a student's father helped his mother describe her experiences in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. One of her jobs was to remove the bodies of those who died in their bunks or by intentionally electrocuting themselves on the barbed-wire fence. This is the second year in a row that I have listened to a student's grandparent describe her (last year, his) experience of watching Joseph Menegle standing at the train and pointing, "Right, Left, Right, Left." Life, Death, Life, Death.

And this afternoon we all stayed glued to our computers as the news from Virginia Tech trickled out, and thought about the terrible loss of life there, and about our own beloved students, whose families perished in Europe, and about our own beloved children off at school and college.

Sometimes, even just days after Easter, it seems that death takes over.

But this morning I listened and watched as a lady of great dignity showed us a photograph of her name and the date 1943 carved into a bunk at Auschwitz, and a photograph of the room in the bunkhouse where a Seder was clandestinely celebrated with stolen food and wine.

L'Chaim.

5 comments:

Carol said...

I believe that the juxtaposition of these events makes us all more aware of the fragility of life and that there must be a higher power at play. There's certainly a message here; I'm trying to find it. Such an awful day.

Cynthia said...

Whispered softly and humbly because nothing else can be said -- L'chaim.

Kathryn said...

The horror of what happened in Virginia and the horror of the Holocaust, even after all these years, are incomprehensible.

So much beyond our control. So much to think about. So many prayers - for those who survived and those who did not.

more cows than people said...

i came here to say "HOORAY!" about a post i read on bloglines about the direction in which your corolla will be pointing this fall. i don't find that post. this post, though, was truly lovely. thank you. and for your attention to your call, YES!

Carol said...

And I just heard on NPR that one of the professors who died at VA Tech was a Holocaust survivor. He encouraged his own young students to jump out of 2nd floor windows while he attempted to barricade the door from the intruder. A hero and survivor to the end. I honor and am humbled by this man.