Threads of Life

August 20, 2008

(I’ve been reading a book called The Art of Aging, by Sherwin Nuland, and a section of that book spurred this post.)  

Have you ever thought about who is affected by your life.  The fact that there are people out there who gain something simply from your existence on the planet.  This is to say nothing of the people in your day to day inner circle, those whom you see and speak to on even a somewhat frequent basis.  

I’ve heard life referred to as a path that you travel.  Your path crosses with any number of other people, but imagine that as we each travel our life paths we trail behind us a fine thread.  With each human connection that we make our thread becomes wrapped with the other person’s.  Sometimes our thread wraps intricately and for a duration with another’s, but sometimes two threads only cross one another at one small, delicate point.  Regardless of how interwoven you become your life is always connected to the people you encounter along your way.  And because of that the impact of your life is felt far beyond your comprehension.  

Back in January, on my old blog, I wrote about a friend who had died suddenly.  He was in his early thirties.  What I didn’t say at the time is that I had very briefly dated that man.  It was nothing serious and we didn’t really stay in touch, but I saw him around every once in awhile.  So when I heard that he had died I was taken off guard by the strong emotions of sadness and grief that I felt.  I didn’t know where the feelings were coming from and I remember staring at the picture that accompanied his obituary for what seemed like a long time.  It didn’t make sense to me.  

Now, you could probably delve into all kinds of deep explanations for why I felt what I did.  But I think the explanation that makes the simplest sense is that his life had crossed and interwoven with mine.  His death rippled back along the thread he’d trailed throughout his life and when it struck the point at which it crossed with my own life, I felt it.  It took me back to that point along my life path.  

The sadness and grief I felt were minute compared to what his parents and loved ones must have felt.  But it was sadness and grief nonetheless.  And if my friend is out there somewhere then I hope he knows that I cried when I heard that his life had ended.  His life was short, but it is connected to many other lives that are still carrying on.  And so, in a way, he goes on too.  

While your life may be in your control, it is not your own.  It is wrapped up with the lives of many others.  Your life today ripples back and connects to people, places, and times that you may have long since ceased to think about.  It gives new meaning to the statement, “You’re not alone,” and it testifies to the thought that no man is an island.

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2 Responses to “Threads of Life”

  1. Chris P said

    Have you read, “How we die” by Nuland? Great book from like 1981.

  2. Protean said

    I haven’t read it, but he references it multiple times in his latest book.

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