Orah Minder
April 2, 2004

One of my religion profs says that "at the heart of all existence is an impenetrable absence." When we come to those intense moments in life, those moments that define who we are, the moments that I have found, in my experience, to be the most religious moments, we find ourselves in a place that is utterly lacking in substance. But within this Absolute lacking there is a Presence. Maybe this Presence is the human body revolting against loneliness, revolting against the transient, departing quality of all things; or maybe it is the echo of those who have just left.

I felt this Absence most intimately last summer. Two summers ago my sister was diagnosed with cancer. She fought cancer for less than a year and died last summer. As I looked at her empty little body on the bright morning of June 24 I felt the Absence. There was no reason to love that 15 year old body anymore. She was gone. And in her space a great Nothing remained. Her body wasn't sad or sick or helpless. It was utterly empty.

Its Presence is cold, meaningless, and unintelligent like sickness. This is the Presence that most people chase like mad in their lives. This unknowable spirit is what people ache to know. It would seem that if the center of existence was meaningless then our lives, too, would be meaningless. And I ask myself: do I regret my sister's life? Was her life not worth the torture that she went through in the past year? Was her life worth the shattering of my soul?

I am reminded of a folk song we used to listen to on long car trips. It's a song about two people who fall in love, but because of life circumstances they cannot be together. The poet says that this tragic separation has torn her soul. But, she writes, "The love we held so brief I'd chance again without regret." And, as a broken human soul sitting here before you in shards, I say, with all my knowledge of this life that, yes, I would chance her love again without regret.

Staring at her body, standing face to face with The Absence, I wondered, and will probably wonder again some time in the future, if there is meaning in life that can be taken so cruelly and so suddenly. But, today, I must testify that there is meaning in every life if it is only because the way we change the lives around us. Her life had meaning because of who I am today. And my life has meaning because all of you are hearing me. Each of us has meaning because we go through life changing each other. We scramble to find the meaning in The Absence; we spend our whole lives trying to find That meaning, when we don't even realize that the meaning of each of our lives depends solely on the people around us, the people we change.

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