A few months ago James Fallows sent me a photo of his son and new-born grandson, a cell-phone snap from the looks of it, and I was a bit surprised at the intimacy of the gesture.
I’ve corresponded with Jim for a few years, and was pleased to guest-blog for him for a week, but I don’t presume we are friends. Friendly, or iFriends perhaps, but we’ve never met in person. To suddenly have this very intimate family moment shared with me caught me off guard. But as much as it caught me off guard, it also warmed my heart.
If you read Jim’s blog, you’ll notice that almost on a weekly basis there is a death notice, and sometimes even more often. At 17 years my senior, Jim is well into the stage of life where the death of a friend or colleague or acquaintance is a common occurance; where as for me, this is new, and something I’m not yet accustomed to.
I have mentioned previously that on that score it’s been a hard year here at Rancho Ryan, and I told Jim the same in reply to the photo of his son and grandson, and added this:
Then this photo of your son and your grandson. How wonderful! This is how you get through it, isn’t it? This season of death is also a season of new life. To every thing turn turn turn…
Yesterday, while scraping, I remembered a conversation I had with a woman about 10 years ago. Her name is Souha, and she had been a subject in a short doc I made about 9/11, and we became friends. A few months after the film was released, we were in the garden of the farmer’s market in Amagansette, sharing a cup of coffee, and talking.
She’s my age, but was born in Lebenon. I told her my earliest “world events” memory was the Lebanese Civil War. My grade school teacher had been to Lebanon, and told us Beiruit was “the Paris of the Middle East” and that it was shocking to see the scenes of battles in the streets.
What I specifically remembered was her telling me about her older brothers, and how, at a certain point, picking sides becomes a matter of survival. You can’t leave the house, to get food or water, unless you have a declared allegience, unless you know which parts of the city are safe for you to travel in.
I was thinking about this because I’ve been thinking about Reihan Salam’s (observance/declaration?) of a (new?) culture war, and I as I thought about my conversation with Souha, I realized it had been years since we spoke and I decided I should call her, so I did.
The conversation didn’t go 15 seconds before I found out that next month Souha is going into the hospital to have surgery for breast cancer. I don’t know the specifics, if the detection was made earlier or late, or what her prognosis is. I simply know that yet another person I know is facing her mortality.
This morning I found out that Marie-Laure Herold and Pascal Gobry have had a baby. I know PEG about as well as I know James Fallows. My heart is warmed. This season of death is also the season of new life!