Wednesday, July 21, 2010
T, J, and I visited The Wild Center in Tupper Lake on a recent rainy day. It is an exceptional natural history museum about the 6 million acre Adirondack Park, and I expect to write more about it on another day. I thought of it today because I performed a small insect rescue this morning, which was somewhat inspired by a breathtaking film about insects that we watched in the museum’s Panoramic Theater.
The short and arduous life of the damsel fly was highlighted in the film, so when I saw this dragonfly (a close relative, I believe, or maybe even a damselfly itself) struggling in the lake, I took pity. I gave her a chance to climb aboard my paddle, then let her accompany me on the rest of my morning outing.
I laughed at myself a bit. My cousin’s blog highlighted a similar rescue from his syrupy pancakes just a couple of weeks back, and I think I linked to his page. The inclination we shared is natural, albeit rather futile.
We humans are inspired to relieve suffering when we see it, and skirt around death whenever we can. If the dragonfly is anything like the damsel, however, it only has one day to live, so the rescue is really a self-indulgent act of futility. Perhaps suffering is avoidable, but not for long…and death is entirely inevitable. For humans, even when someone achieves a “good” death, without suffering, those left behind suffer greatly.
But maybe small gestures are a gentle balm to the sorrowing soul.
I attended the funeral of an uncle a few months ago. He was, like most of my relatives, deeply connected to this lake, where he spent many summers. His was a sudden, unexpected death, while in great health and fitness even in his early 80’s. He died from a fall during his daily bike ride.
His son, my cousin, a strong, charismatic, vital father of two teens, gave a eulogy. Never have I seen such an epic struggle for self-control in the face of grief – and he succeeded. He paid beautiful tribute to his dad with humor, grace, deep sincerity, and profound love. He had to stop several times to take a drink from his water bottle while re-gathering his equilibrium, and once he said to us in the church, “This is hard.” But he was determined. He finished, and nothing could have been more moving or could have said more about the strength of devotion that this son had for his father. He helped every person in that room feel more deeply, share in grief, and experience true love for our dear lost friend and family member.
All this came to mind as my heart goes out today to yet another relative and her family, as she struggles against suffering and a wicked disease that has been taking her breath away for months. Saying goodbye hurts.
So I rescued a dragonfly. Silly. But maybe not, really.