The Measure of a Life

Christopher - Norfolk, Virginia
Entered on January 1, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65

As I sat looking across a partially frozen lake, under an unseasonably mild December twilight sky, I watched wisps of clouds blow through the fading sunlight, much like shades of lost souls outside Scourge’s bedroom window. The image, coupled with my own introspection of the previous fifty Christmas’ heightened my perception.

In that moment, the “surround sound like” soundtrack of the world around me, and the accompanying images of events unfolding, flashed into my mind’s eye like those allegedly seen in the moments near death. From behind me, to the upper left, was the sound of songbirds screeching in apparent anger. Below them was the rustle of a squirrel that no doubt was the focus of the bird’s agitation. In front of me to the left were the muted flapping of geese flying in wedge like formation eastward into the encroaching edge of night, and to the right a small group of swans huddled gracefully near the border of ice and liquid water.

What focused my attention most significantly; however, was the smallest of sounds and images just to the right of my peripheral vision. A lone knat, hatched prematurely on this uncharacteristically warm winter day, buzzed haphazardly in near slow motion, as if disoriented by the world it had entered. A creature normally seen in fog like swarms emerging from lakes on summer evenings, it should expect to live a frenzied, twenty-four hour lifespan singularly devoted to mating, egg laying and death. Here then was this single knat, alone, unaware of the short time it had to live, and with no hope of fulfilling the sole, genetically encoded purpose of its existence. The poignancy of the moment crystallized my own sense of soul searching, which the seasonal melancholy of the holiday’s had already inspired.

My heart, imperfectly formed since birth, beats with the measured high tech rhythm of the best in medical technology. The devices, and brilliant minds of those who have implanted them, have extended my life beyond what would have been reasonable only a decade ago. Like most of us, I have known great joys; horrific sorrows; the love of friends who know me, and the indifference of those who do not. I have tried, succeeded or failed, no less or more than others, but have sincerely endeavored to leave the world, and the people whose lives I have intercepted, better than it, or they, might otherwise have been.

For all the imagined perspective the events of my life have given me, it was the flight of one insect; alone, unfocused, and unaware of its own mortality, which has etched out a new path to pursue in the time left to me. I will try harder to savor with greater joy the moments between each beat of my heart, or the flutter of an insect’s wing. It is in these moments of frozen time where life is to be lived. This I believe.