On Tuesday January 12th 2010, I was in London – celebrating the birthday of my daughter who had just turned 21 years old. It was a wonderful day, spent in celebration and joy, relishing in the blessedness of good health, vibrancy and mother-daughter love. Life was good!
But that evening, our revelry was broken – like a shattered spell – by images of the devastating earthquake in Haiti coming from a television screen in the corner of a French pastry shop. We looked up at the screen horrified. The terrifying face of humanity caught in the embrace of sudden devastation smothered this poignant moment of joyful celebration. How could one laugh when others were in such pain? How could one bite into a chocolate birthday cake, when others lay dying? How could life go on?
The memory of a dream that I had once had on the morning of my daughter’s birth came back to me. In it my Indian ancestors sat by a river plaintively chanting the words, “birth and death, the river flows on, the river flows on “.
That evening, caught on the edge of pain and joy as images of Haiti’s earthquake held us spellbound, I had only one question: How do we hold birth and death, sadness and joy, terror and calm, shadow and light – in the comforting embrace of our humanity and trust in the flow of the river of life?