JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tom Stoppard on living in the moment

Early this morning, I came across this speech from Tom Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia (which I have neither seen nor read). Herzen is talking about the death of his son:

His life was what it was. Because children grow up, we think a child's purpose is to grow up. But a child's purpose is to be a child. Nature doesn't disdain what lives only for a day. It pours the whole of itself into each moment. We don't value the lily less for not being made of flint and built to last. Life's bounty is in its flow, later is too late. Where is the song when it's been sung? The dance when it's been danced?

A couple of hours later, I read a moving piece in the Guardian about Jane Wilson-Howarth's decision to spare her seriously sick infant son the agonies of a medicalised life. Instead she and her husband took him to Nepal, where they were working, so that David could enjoy the life that he had. And he did - the piece was full of baby laughter and smiles, a world away from his traumatised terror whilst in hospital. He died aged three, and is buried in the British cemetery in Kathmandu among 19th-century diplomats, surgeon majors, babies taken by smallpox and Gurkhas. His five-year-old older brother Alex decided David would be reincarnated as crown prince to Shiva, the god of destruction and recreation; he imagined him with a new body and laughing as always, flying around the heavens in a celestial chariot. Here we could savour our times with David, talk about him and even think of our bereavement as a period of good grief - a time that strengthened our family bonds through all the highs and lows we had experienced together.

I profoundly hope that I never have to make such a life-or-death decision. I know from the experience of a close friend how appallingly difficult it is, how much unnecessary guilt there is in the mixture. Some of this is addressed in Stephen Venables' book about his autistic son Ollie, who died of leukaemia. The thought of Ollie's funeral, still brings tears to my eyes - it was a cold, bleak autumn day, the only glimmer of hope coming from the distant sound of children's laughter which echoed round the hillside as the beautiful wooden coffin was lowered into the ground.

How clever of Tom Stoppard to have articulated this simple yet profound truth:

Life's bounty is in its flow, later is too late.

1 comment:

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Joanna, you are so perfect. Thank you so much for this one.