Monday, October 6, 2008

Our mortal coil

I've been thinking about mortality. I've just spent two weeks working at the State Archives and, while an interesting place to be, it's all about dead people. Every task I did meant looking at handwriting written by someone who was dead. I read registers of miscellaneous court cases in the 1860s and 1940s. I read lists of names of people whose wills had been probated and property transferred. I read the diary of an explorer of the 1860s and minutes of meeting from when Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859.

It was fascinating but after a week I felt I was mired in death. These lists and minutes and diaries are all that's left of those people - something they touched and put an indelible mark on. It was a glimpse into their lives. Just reading the different styles of handwriting (and seeing how it changed over a hundred years) made me feel I could almost touch the writer. It was a bit creepy and a bit scary.

Our time here is finite and we get so absorbed in living the lives we have we barely notice the passing of it. I wonder what pieces of our lives will be left for future generations. Is it enough to be remembered by those who loved us, then fade into the fog of history, not even missed because no one in the future would even be aware of our being?

I think I noticed it more because a friend (R) had surgery for breast cancer last week. Her prognosis is good but it's hard not to think of worst case scenarios when the word 'cancer' is mentioned.

Not all of life is a choice. Some things just happen and we have to deal with it - like my friend. The way we deal with it is the only choice we have. R is dealing with it the same way she has dealt with every knock life has given her - with courage and good humour. She's an incredible person, one of the strongest, most compassionate people I know. That alone will get her through.

No comments: