This I believe…
I used to have many important beliefs. Now I have just one. I believe it is good to breathe. When I am lost and can’t find my direction, I remind myself simply, to breathe. I can see the air rushing in, through my tree-shaped bronchi, and feel it filling my lungs. It inflates my little alveolar sacs, and enters the blood stream. I can see the air, hitching a ride on my red blood cells, and I can see the little red blood cells steaming along the tracks, chuga-chugging throughout my body, all the way down to my toes, bringing energy, focus, clarity, and hope – all the good things that I need to figure out the rest.
I have asthma. When I received the news of my young son’s death by suicide, I was unable to breathe. No amount of asthma medicine could restore that function. It was the voice of a stranger in my house, telling me to breathe, to close my eyes and breathe, “Slow and easy, in and out, slow and easy, in and out.” As it turns out, she was not a stranger, but a good friend. But on that day, everyone was a stranger, even me to myself.
In the church packed with family and friends, my sisters stayed close by, ensuring that I remembered to breathe. That was all I had to do. Breathe in and out, slow and easy. Even that simple act seemed too much. My beloved son, Matt, lay in his coffin, as cold as ice, like I am now. I told my lungs to stop breathing; it was too painful. But my lungs were disobedient and breathed anyway. And my rebel heart kept beating. I walked out of the church; the center aisle must have been three miles long.
The last time I remember someone telling me to breathe was at Matt’s birth, 19 years ago. I had a joyful home delivery with a midwife and my family in attendance. That time the message was “Open your eyes. Look at me. Breathe with me.”
How do I end this story? Breathe, breathe and then breathe again.