If you have ever had a newborn, you know what I am about to say is true, but you’re probably smart enough to have kept it to yourself. Newborn babies are good for nothing. They demand and demand and offer nothing in return. They give no sweet smile, they are months from a real hug, a year or so from saying “I love you.” It seems a mistake of evolution that at the point when a human can offer the least in return is the very moment when they demand the most. Yet humans keep having babies, and by and large, those babies are cared for. Why? I think it’s because we don’t actually care for the babies, but for the potential they harbor. The worlds they will inhabit and create, the love they will show, the things they will produce, the things that they will change and the things that will change them. To care for a baby is to honor the filled manger and the potential life it represents. The dying too are needy with nothing to offer. Life follow its circuit and the end resembles the beginning. By and large the dying are cared for also, but why? In caring for the dying we do not honor life in its potential, but the potential that has been realized. We honor the love that has been given, the plans fulfilled, the material created, the experiences that have been shared. In caring for the dying we show that that life and the one who lived it has mattered, that their days have had value. Even if we don’t know the entire story of a life, we have faith that that life is worth serving, and that faith is a virtue. To care for the dying to care for those who have created the worlds in which we have been blessed to live.
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