Friday, March 11, 2016
On the day he died
No matter how strong physically, emotionally, psychologically we may appear, we are essentially among the fragilest of creations. Our life is like the tenuous flame at the tip of a paper match. Poof, we burn brightly and with ferocity.
Poof, and gone.
On the drive to our layover hotel in São Paulo this morning, our driver pointed out the body of a middle-aged man lying in the median of the road, not five feet from where the traffic signal had stopped us. Dead.
He was drowned by dramatic flash-flooding which occurred here in recent days, suddenly overwhelmed by the waters of the rapidly rising stream which runs alongside the roadway, normally just a brook. He'd left his car, a very late-model VW with its door open perhaps 50 feet away in a bid to escape the flood. Sudden. Unexpected. Death.
The leg and bare foot which protruded from underneath a hastily-employed black plastic shroud revealed youth and vitality. It also revealed lividity and the essentially ephemeral nature of our being.
As we made our u-turn at the intersection for the final jog of our hotel ride, a fair-haired, middle-aged woman arrived at the scene; obviously someone close to the fallen man. Her reaction when the black plastic as moved to confirm his identity was chillingly visceral: she withered in place like the ash on a lit cigarette butt in an ashtray. Her world changed in an instant.
I will never forget the scene. I will never forget the brutal reality of it for however long my "never" might be.
May he rest in peace, our fallen brother. Peace be with all who knew and loved him but especially with the woman to whom he was so dear. On the day he died, the heavens provided the most beautiful shroud...