The closest I’ve ever come to understanding death was the moment I gave birth to my first child.
There were no complications, neither I nor the baby were in distress, and my daughter was born perfectly healthy.
Still, in that moment, consumed in the un-medicated haze of labor pains and heavy acceptance of new life leaving my being to form its own – I experienced a profound connection to the intensity of both life and death all at once. Life and death, two journeys we all must pass, inevitably, once at our beginning and once at our end. With the overwhelming joy of new journey came the overwhelming acceptance of the eventual latter journey both I and my new baby were destined to one day pass through as well.
As the next few weeks of newborn fuzziness wore off, it was easy for me to pass off that newfound depth as typical postpartum hormones. Eventually I stopped crying at every commercial about babies and pregnancy, and eventually I grew to no longer dwell on the bittersweet intermingling of life and death as two parts of the same whole.
KP and I wrote a movie this year, which I’ve mentioned here quite a bit. The movie, based on a true story, dealt with the reality of issues such as life, death, suffering, privilege, and purpose. While KP and I are no where near qualified to provide concrete answers to life’s hard questions, the story we wanted to tell didn’t allow us to avoid them either:
Why is there pain and suffering in this world?
Why does death choose its victims without discrimination?
Why do bad things happen to good people?
How do we assign value to a person’s life?
How do faith and science work together – can they?
Is it possible for one to truly have compassion for another human being?
How can an individual impact the world for good, even in spite of our limitations of pain, suffering, science, and death?
Writing a project such as this, where we were regularly forced to confront difficult topics together, has greatly affected our marriage – and our communication skills – for the better. The much better. It wasn’t always easy, in fact, sometimes it was really tough to connect and create together, but we made it through and completed the script. A mom friend of mine joked a few months ago that writing a script together was probably like a form of marriage therapy for us. And it was. It really was. And we’re really proud of the script we’ve slowly whittled out of the whole thing.
It’s been a process.
I don’t want to jinx anything, so I won’t talk about it much more from here, but on the development front – our script is out there. Fingers crossed that things fall into place as they should. But of course, as always, the waiting game is hard. We shall see what happens from here. I truly believe that if it’s meant to be it will. And even if not, KP and I are better off for the experience of having written it no matter what.
In the meantime, KP and I are coming back up for air after the emotional journey of our last script and starting to think about future writing projects together. The two new ideas we currently find ourselves most drawn to, strangly enough, ALSO center on topics such as death and meaning and suffering and unfairness…and the hope and purpose that we must seek to find in spite of it all if we want to survive.
I’m not 100% sure that I’m ready to mentally throw myself into either of these two project directions, especially as I’m sitting here with the heaviness (though deep joy) of a new life growing and moving inside me that I’ll soon birth into the world once again. But I figure – what better time to confront the emotional dichotomy of life and death than when I’m currently preparing a new life’s journey inside of me?
Huge sigh. I can do this. Nothing may come from these efforts, but at least I try. I have to keep going.
Meanwhile, I’m throwing myself into some heavy reading. As much as others may dislike the depths of these kinds of thoughts, I find my mind drawn insatiably toward them. Because, just as in that moment of my firstborn’s birth, I’m drawn toward a connection to the intensity of both life and death. Toward a hope that if I could just fully understand either, that I could then better understand both.
Here’s what’s on my current book reading list and nightstand. Some I’ve read before, some are new. At least I’m hoping to be well rounded, lol:
Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts
Man’s Search for Meaning
When Breath Becomes Air
A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature
God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer
There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind
The Book of Ecclesiastes