February 26, 2007

Life In My Hands

Humans and animals both die. Both go to the same place: the dust from which they came and to which they must return. Ecclesiastes 3: 19, 20

This verse is from today's meditation in a Lenten devotional book I'm reading. It's a reminder that life is precious and fragile.

Every day I am reminded of how fragile life can be. My son Ethan has type 1 diabetes, and every time I help him check his blood sugar or give him insulin, I am aware that, in a very real way, his life is in my hands.

Last week was a really good week. Very few blood sugar readings were much beyond normal levels. On Saturday night, I took Ethan to an orchestra concert in Yuba City. I promised him an ice cream afterward. I also promised him that, if he didn't like the concert, we could leave after three songs. However, he enjoyed the music, and that, along with the table of cookies they had for after the concert, made him want to stay. I was so pleased; it was no small miracle for Ethan to sit quietly for the 1 hour 15 minute concert.

Despite the cookie I let him have and the ice cream, his blood sugar levels remained normal. I patted myself on the back for giving him the right insulin for the special dessert, even though it was merely guess work on my part.

Last night, however, was different. At bedtime, his blood sugar was a little low, so we gave him a snack and allowed him to go to sleep. An hour later I checked, and it was 28, which is so low it's scary. I woke him up and gave him several sugar cubes and a small cup of root beer. Twenty minutes later it was up to 108, and I was able to breathe again.

I know that Ethan's life is literally in my hands; this is something I cannot forget. What is easy to forget, though, is that I hold others' lives in my hands. It seems that God has designed us this way, that a little part of our lives is in the hands of our neighbors, friends, even strangers. These lives are fragile, and easily crushed. A harsh word, the withholding of forgiveness, even a hostile stare, can destroy a part of the life that exists within a person; but a kind word, a hug, even a smile can strengthen life.

I don't always value the lives that I hold; often, I'm not even aware that I'm holding them. But I am. And they all deserve to be held carefully and lovingly, for they are indeed fragile.

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