Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dark Memories

Memories surface, unbidden, at the most inopportune times. Most often we are not even attempting to remember, but a smell, an image, a voice, will bring on a memory as if a flood gate has been opened. We cannot stop it. It rolls over us, sweeping us up into the emotion of an event that may have happened years ago. Yet here we are – older and wiser – succumbing to its influence.

Two nights ago, it was a dream that brought back unbidden memories that I wish had stayed buried. The dream was simple – I was being restrained by someone I could not see. My arms were being held down by my side and this person’s heavy, strong arms were around my waist, holding me fast, unable to move. I could not see the face; I could only see the arm that wrapped around the front of me and feel the pressure around my rib cage. The inability to move my arms, to free myself, caused a rise of uncontrollable panic.

I know – it was only a dream. But the images were so vivid that I was struggling in my sleep to release myself from this hold. I woke myself up, struggling to break free of the bonds of sleep, trying to call out to someone to help me. My garbled, muted voice woke me to a darkened room where I was free to move without restraint and peace washed over me with blessed relief.

Immediately my mind asked: where have you experienced this before? The answers rolled through my mind, images from the past, the ugliest rising to the surface like motor oil, slimy and blue/green, rising to the surface of the road as it begins to rain. Life is like that road, taking us to our destination - sometimes smoothly, sometimes not - and always there are those oily segments that aim to distract us, yank us, from our journey with their ugliness. We can continue forward, or we can stop – too long – to examine their depths and drown in them.

By putting these thoughts to paper, I hope to purge them from my soul and bury this dream where it belongs – in the past.

Monday, February 23, 2009


The “official” definition states:

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin, poenitentia
Date: 14th century

1: An act of self-abasement, mortification, or devotion performed to show sorrow or repentance for sin;
2: A sacramental rite that is practiced in Roman, Eastern, and some Anglican churches and that consists of private confession, absolution, and a penance directed by the confessor;
3: Something (as a hardship or penalty) resembling an act of penance (as in compensating for an offense).

Personally, I do not believe that penance can or should be inflicted by one person upon another. As stated above, penance is either SELF imposed or a plan of action entered into by the “sinner” and a member of the church (i.e., a priest) for the absolution of sins.

Penance is about confession and absolution. Relationships are about forgiveness. “Making amends” is a method of atonement available to individuals in relationships who hurt and forgive one another.

Penance is about sins that can be deemed to be “marks” against a person’s soul, standing in the church, or standing in society. Between individuals, unless the “crime” is one punishable by law, “making amends” is again, something that should be originated by the person who has hurt/harmed another, not imposed upon someone by another.

I know individuals in relationships who believe they have the right to demand penance from another. I have to wonder how they would react if someone attempted to demand penance from them. How can one demand repentance, penance or forgiveness? Each must be freely given in order to have any true meaning.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Choice of Dying

If I asked how many of you had ever considered initiaing your own death, most of you would deny it. However, the facts are that most of do contemplate the choice between living and dying at some point in our lives. We may not call it "thoughts of suicide", but we do at least consider what life would be like for our loved ones if we were no longer living and/or we consider the pain and problems with which we would no longer have to deal.

I would venture to say that contemplating the choice between life and death is actually a sign of sanity. Those who have not considered the possibilities are either not grounded in reality, thus never getting depressed or frustrated by the trials of life, or are gluttons for punishment. Life, for the most part, is good. Corny, I know - but true nonetheless. But it has its moments of despair that many think will not end or that they will not survive. The strong persist, but is it becuase they are strong or is it because they are afraid?

Depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts, is a treatable disease. Knwoing that should be the hope that pushes that person forward into life - but often that hope is not strong enough to perservere or the person refuses the treatment that could change their lives. Terminal diseases, on the other hand, offer little hope but for a downward spiral into pain and difficulty. Yet, as a society, we feel pity and sorrow for those who commit suicide and declare those who choose euthanasia (or assist it) as criminals. Twisted logic, in my way of thinking.

The issue of choice between life and death will continue to exist for as long as people are of different minds. Who truly has the right to say which is "right"?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is Death Darkness?

The theme remains death. Recently an aunt passed away. She has been "ill" for as long as I can remember - poor circulation in the legs that led to pain and eventually to an almost crippling state of being. Strokes. Progressive physical deterioration. A little over 2 years ago, her doctors told her family that she has 12-14 months to live. She lived double that time. I smile because doctors often believe they know everything and this just proves that they know relatively little in the whole scheme of life and death.

The quality of life, however, in those last years was very poor. I say that because while the body was weak and failing, the mind appeared to be strong. During the last few months, she could little communicate due to the failing body. But the light remained strong in her eyes. What is this quality of life? I imagine a certain amount of fear connected to an alert mind trapped in a body that is betraying one's very existence. To be unable to communicate with those around - about little things, about important things, about nothing - is frightening.

In such a case, is death darkness - or is it amazingly beautiful light? Is living the darkness of the tunnel and death the light at the end? I cannot say. Quality of life is truly up to the individual; however, when the individual can no longer communicate, how can we know whether the quality is sufficient for them? How can we tell when the fear of dying succumbs to the fear of living?

It is a fine line that we walk. Each day we begin anew, never suspecting the moment that could be our last. Is it harder to live or it is harder to die?