Friday, October 27, 2006

1.30 2. And in my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me/Realm of the Muse

Muse Luka Kovac/ER
Words: 656

I always thought I'd be ready for death when it came for me. I'd told myself I was for years. What did I have to stay alive for? My wife and my children were long gone and the life we had dreamed of was nothing more than a distant memory that on some days I couldn't even remember.

I'd taunted death for years. I'd put my life and the lives of others at risk because I had nothing to lose, never even thinking about the value of their lives.

I'd turned my back on my faith for all those years, holding it to blame for all I'd lost. I had no trouble justifying it, I'd begged for help to save my wife and daughter after I found them. I'd prayed and prayed that someone would find us while I struggled to keep Jasna alive, and instead my prayers were ignored. What use did I have for a God that would allow children to die as he had allowed mine to?

I'd tried to make peace with my faith. Bishop Stewart had seen my hunger for it even as I denied that it was there. He heard my confession, carried my burden to the next life with him as he passed, but it wasn't enough to free me, and if anything only made things worse.

Years later when I found myself facing death in the Congo I remember at first challenging the Mai Mai to kill me. With a gun to my head I assumed an air of arrogance without even considering what it might do to the others there. In those moments I dared them to pull the trigger and instead they walked away. I don't think I expected them to just walk away, but that's what they did, once again I had escaped death.

I wish I had learned from those moments. If I'd taken that look of fear from John, and understood it wasn't just his own life he was terrified for, maybe Patrique would still be alive, but I didn't. I knew everything, I was invincible.

When the clinic was taken by the Mai Mai that second time, I think I finally understood what John had felt that day. Knowing they were raping Sakima and there was nothing I could do, I was terrified of what they might do to Chance. She was only a little girl, and she had already endured so much. Having to watch as one by one the others were drug off and shot, knowing it was only a matter of time until it would be my turn. It wasn't easy, my thoughts were distorted from the malaria, and then to see Patrique killed as he pleaded with them to spare my life.

Then I was alone, but I wasn't alone, I remember the music so clearly, and I could almost feel her presence. I remember looking up and feeling a warmth, a comfort I hadn't felt in some time and I somehow found the strength to kneel in prayer. I hadn't prayed since that day in Vukovar, I didn't even know if I remembered how to, I couldn't even know if those words would be my last all I knew was that I needed to try. And somehow amidst all the violence and death I found a peace, and a serenity I didn't think existed.

That I'm writing this now is proof I survived, I wish I could say I also walked away with a better understanding of what I want from my life, but I didn't. I think that's something that will come in time. I no longer taunt death though, I gained that from that day, I realize what a gift it is and as hard as it is I value each day and the gifts they bring with them, if not for me, then for those who can no longer be here to enjoy them themselves.

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