Once a newborn struggled with post-partum depression. This searing light after months in dark serenity. This sudden blasting away of a warmth that reached back to the very beginning of the newborn’s world. The shock of finding itself cut off and alone in a strange, strange place and passed around by Gargantuan creatures with toothy grins. And before that, a sharp slap on the butt and then the sound of somebody weeping for joy, for joy at it all! Amid this jumbled rush of unwelcome sensations, the newborn reached out to reclaim the soothing equilibrium that was all it had ever known but found its hands resisted every command, flailing in useless fists at the air. And its own cry, an anguished wail that should have drowned out both tears of joy and the deafening chorus of goo-goo coos from all sides had no effect whatsoever, particularly on this bristly face thrust against its own cheek with lips puckered and rough. The time of being a mere zygote and then no more than a tiny embryo had been paradise compared to this. The sum of creation in every cell and futures as varied as life itself! But now? Here? When had all those futures been reduced to the single one now open to the newborn? Had this moment come on slowly, with a few slivers of “what might have been” pared away here and more lost there? Or did an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it point of no return abruptly declare, “this is your life and no other”? From toddler to adolescent to adult to toothless ancient, an ever-receding progression stretched out before the newborn. Against the distant blur it could make out patches of light in which these dreamlike figures appeared, disappeared, and then appeared again, waiving to the newborn and smiling to themselves before walking on into the gloom once more. There was an undeniable attraction to the attitude suggested by the figures’ advance through darkness and light. Seen from the newborn’s vantage point, their ultimate disappearance beyond the last, faint light was inevitable. And yet the march towards that unalterable end, which could have been a continual, desperate clutching at every futile hope of reprieve, had instead a quiet nobility about it. A look of trusting repose spread across the newborn’s face. Awaiting it was a journey not its alone. Beginnings and endings gave birth to each other and would continue to do so far beyond the last glimpse of the disappearing figures. Life was not an individual definition that isolated each person from all others in a private destiny, however much one’s own existence might suggest it was. Nor was death. The eventual loosing of all the atoms currently on loan to the newborn from distant stars would only mark a stage in their long return across the galaxies, each recombination with atoms from other worlds along the way giving life ever new promise. “This is your life and no other.” The newborn smiled for the first time and reached out towards the waiting smiles in the cold room.
Copyright © 2013 by Geoffrey Grosshans