I can still smell the formaldahyde, see the frog pithed to the board as I went about dissecting it, taking copious notes on what I found, identifying organs, both of us hidden in a corner of our fourth grade classroom so the other students didn’t feel like they had to vomit.
This Yom Kippur, even though I no longer practice the faith of my youth and early adulthood I shall seek the forgiveness of the frog who thought he was giving his life in the early training of a doctor, not one who ended up practicing law, and know he will probably forgive me for even amphibians have compassion for us, despite our obvious shortcomings.
She tells me I should rest, that I need convalescent time, but I want to tell her, “why, it isn’t like they stuck a needle in my eye, so why rest?” but it actually is just that, but the rest of my body is none the worse for the wear on my face, and it hurts less when I am doing something other than thinking about it.
The eye will feel better in a day or two, they say, and I have great faith in them, why else would I let them stick a needle into my eye, and anyway, I have a spare and that is the one that still works like new, well, almost new normal wear and tear excepted.
My granddaughter is intensely concerned with the growing loss of species, and rightly so, and I share her fears, though I feel largely powerless to do anything.
She has the faith of youth, a belief that she and her peers can, with work, effect a lasting change, climb up the slippery slope which we have cast them down, and save other species from a fate nature never could have intended.
But she cannot fathom the losses that I have seen, things I knew rendered extinct by her generation, and that of her parents, the cassette player, the typewriter, carbon paper, and stationery and a writing desk, to name only a few, but at least the haven’t outdated my Blackberry.
There was a time, still within memory’s ever more tenuous grasp that I imagined myself, at this age, as a monk in a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, that I had assumed a silence imposed by lack of language, not faith.
I am certain that the Japanese are pleased that I let that dream pass unfulfilled, that I confine my practice to that American form of Zen, softened and gently bleached from its shogun watered roots.
I recall my visits to Senso-ji, Todaii-ji and countless other small temples where I would often find a zafu and sit, but only the youngest monks I met could understand that it was there, among them, that I felt spiritually at home.
They finally used the word or one near enough to it and she was not surprised, she almost welcomed it. You can grow jealous of those with a depth of faith that a sentence of months or perhaps less is received with grace and a smile, a nod and a statement “I’m more than ready to go home now, back to my husband.” I hope I will show such equanimity when I am told my time is quickly drawing to an end, but I am left with great faith in myself, and that may not suffice as I prepare to slip away into oblivion.