Sunday, December 12, 2010

Birth + Death = Life

Birth. Death.

My family finds itself poised on the very edge, waiting for both life and death at exactly the same moment.

My Grandma might draw her final breath sometime today. Or, we may still be waiting, watching while nature has its way with her for a little longer. At the other end of life's continuum, my cousin has been ready (since Friday) for labor to start and a new life to begin its own cycle. But for the last several days we've all been waiting. Waiting for death. Waiting for life.

The average annual world birth rate is currently estimated to be 19.95/1000.* That means about 370,317 babies will be born today. And tomorrow another 370,317 and then an entirely new batch of 370,317 babies will be born two days from now. Imagine how many people will be affected by those births each day. Even if you factor just five people anxiously awaiting each of these births, that would be over 2 million people personally affected every single day by births.

The average annual world death rate is currently estimated to be 8.37/1000.* About 155,366 people will die today. And again tomorrow. And another 155,366 or so the day after that. Think of how many people will be personally affected by those 155,366 deaths. If an average of even five people are affected by one of today's deaths, three-quarters of a million people will be involved with death somehow, each and every day.

So, if today you happen to find yourself: being born, dying, waiting for either of those two things to happen, or if you're mourning/rejoicing yesterday's occurrences or anticipating tomorrow's - you are not unique, you are not special. There are over 7 billion people in the world; each one born in a pretty similar way and each one heading toward a similar cessation of life. What could possibly be more mundane, more insignificant than one single instance of birth or death?

And yet, what could possibly be more significant or more unique? Birth is the capital letter at the start of a life's first sentence and death is the punctuation mark at the end of the last page. All the days in between become the story of a singular, unrepeatable human experience.

To the capital letter on the very first page and a full-stop at the end of the last chapter I dedicate all the pages in between.


*statistics from the CIA World Factbook