The long goodbye

Life hurts so much. Takes such a heavy tax from all of us before our bill comes due at the end. I've watched so many die - sinners and saints, spiritual and scientific, pragmatic and idealistic. My heart has been torn in two, and there have been other times when I was dispassionately empathetic, and those times my reflection scared me. I don't recognize the jaded me sometimes.

But regardless of the countless patients, strangers and those who grew into me like family, this is different. I look into my newly godless heart, and I am somewhat surprised to see that it hasn't changed a whit. It still beats solely for the love of the broken and burdened. I don't need a god to tell me to be kind, faithful, loyal, loving. That burning core that is the central self, it speaks to me. "Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me." And this time? The suffering is touching that very most secret and tender part of me that I have worked a lifetime to wall off and keep safe.

Safety is an illusion. Is that part of what keeps people believing beyond rational doubts - the safety of a paradigm where there is a good guy upstairs and a heaven to look forward to? I tell my friend that I need a place on this earth to come back to. To visit her. Because that is the only place I'll ever find her again…in the soil that mixes with her ashes and carries her down down deep into the earth to come alive again in the burning bushes of spring.