The Vertical Man Revisited

We must honor while we can
The vertical man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.

W.H. Auden

A good friend of mine posted a clip from Make a Wish on facebook this morning. It was one of those wonderful and bittersweet things involving fulfilling the lifelong dream of someone who was fast running out of life. In this case it was an aspiring ballerina who had always wanted to dance with the male lead of a company. It was arranged. Everyone treated her with kindness and graciously. I freely admit that my eyes burned a bit before it was through.

Such things always arouse two conflicting reactions within me: On the one hand, I am pleased and proud that my fellow men are capable of responding with such acts of compassion to the plight of another. On the other hand, I am left wondering why it takes the shadow of imminent death to give us permission to be gentle with one another.

I have been to two memorial services in as many years. I have been to many more in the course of my life. In every one I have carried regret with me. I suspect such is the case with most of us.

It would be a far better world if we could learn to show the living the compassion we reserve for the dying.

Be seeing you.

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