Though he is 84, he has arm, leg, and abdominal muscles stronger by far than mine. I often envy his commitment to his morning exercise routine, though it does little to strengthen my own. In this moment though, answering an emergency room doctor’s questions about when he was born, where he is at right now, and what he remembers, he is as vulnerable as any of us in the wake of a fresh reminder that we are utterly at the mercy of the wind. He knows his roots, he knows he is loved, he knows his life’s purpose, he knows his God. He knows his humanity too, and is deeply moved by compassion, gentleness, love. His dignity doesn’t miss a beat, and he answers the doctor’s questions with crisp, polite, confident, eager, and perfect accuracy. Our laughter at his tone dissipates the intensity of the moment, and puts him back in touch with his humour. They will give him the appropriate medication; he will be fine; relief washes over all of us. Things will soon be back to normal.
Three days later, he spoke at his little sister’s 80th birthday party, about the day she was born. He made me laugh. Still. How can we bear it, this awareness that we are at the mercy of the wind? This awareness that no matter our strength, or the importance of our plans, or the depth of our love, it can all be rendered void in an instant, a puff of breath?
Outside my window just now, on a wind near -40 degrees, the church bells are clear. I know why they ring. Being at the mercy of the wind begs meaning, comfort. It begs something solid, concrete walls, candles, connection to the cosmos.