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  • Writer's pictureWesley Snedeker


Some ancient perspectives on what people are made of can be a little gruesome. There's an ancient Sumerian myth, for instance, that imagines humans as little clay figures who were animated by the blood of a rebellious lesser god who was slaughtered by his superiors.

The God of the Hebrews was a little gentler. One of the Genesis narratives describes YHWH fashioning the children of the garden on purpose and bringing them to life by breathing into their nostrils. It's a comforting departure from some of the more upsetting creation myths. Humankind was created not as an afterthought, the byproduct of a brutal execution, but through a deeply intimate coming together—a love-making of sorts.

Still, though, there seems to be a preoccupation with what goes into us—with what makes us go.

The thought flitted around the periphery of my experience with you as we were gathered—praying, crying, embracing. I was called from my lunch break to come and see you. It was urgent. You were in the bed, wispy and still. Your beloved was sobbing and rubbing your back, whispering kindnesses to you I don't know if you heard. Your child was there, too, her voice caught in her throat as she clutched your middle. She looked up at me with glassy eyes and asked if I would speak ultimate words.

With one hand I clutched your tiny fingers, the other I rested on your fragile shoulder. I closed my eyes and pleaded to you—stating gratitude, invoking confidence, wishing peace. The man who loved you put his head down on your pillow.

When I lifted my hands you were gone. We stood for a long time in nervous silence as the nurse listened for any evidence of what had already departed from you. I stared at your face and then at the floor, suspended in a moment of infinite recognition, waiting, breathless.

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