Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Last Breath

What separates life from death is our breath. If your heart stops beating or an organ fails you cannot live, but it is the air flowing in and out of the lungs that is the final arbiter delineating the space between the mortal coil and what lies beyond.

Oddly, or not oddly, I have a distinct memory of my husband's last  breath. The time was 11:45 PM; the view through the window was a rich black. No moonlight or starlight penetrated the ineffable sky. The family was gathered around his bed, all eyes trained on his face softly lit by a flickering candle. His countenance yielded no signs of distress, even as his lungs were compressed by massive tumors. 

And then his last breath slipped away - quietly, softly, as if in a simple meditative state. He was still warm, his body relaxed and magnificent in death as in life. And yet, the great mystery had just unfolded before our very eyes.

When a baby is born, the delivery is not complete until that being draws its first breath. Rebirth into the infinite is a mirror reflection in reverse as the angels of light carry the spirit, buoyed on its last exhale, beyond the confines of our knowing.

That simple act, breathing in, breathing out, is the life force in action. Someday ours will flow in, then out for the last time. Knowing that our breaths are numbered, I cherish the air as it flows in and out; a delight more subtle, more refined, than any earthly pleasure.

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