I'm sitting on the couch, there but not there.
She's filling my mind, this friend I haven't seen in several years. This friend who is about to lose her fight with cancer.
For a few moments, all I can see is her face seated at the table across from me in Bible study, and her kids. Her kids. Three of them, all in elementary school. She is younger than me. She has been fighting for quite some time.
A sigh of helplessness escapes me. I look up at the television and for the first time start listening. I see that Dan has fallen asleep in the middle of what he was watching with Anna before she was tucked into bed not long ago. I remember hearing them from the other room. She was singing "Let It Go" and Dan was asking if she'd ever heard of fractals (as in "my soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around," one of the lines in the song).
I see the man on the television, from a YouTube video actually, is talking about fractals. He's making a presentation at what appears to be a church; on the screen are amazing images that look like art. Only they're math.
The best I can understand, fractals are infinite, complex, never-ending patterns that reveal greater complexity when they are repeated. They can go on forever. And you'll find them not just in math, but throughout nature. The genius of computers helps us to see the infinite patterns play out. They look like art, and order.
This man shows the layers within the layers of looping spirals that forever loop into tinier and tinier versions of themselves. Can you see it? he asks. Can you see the order woven even into mathematical patterns?
A website I delve into later (whatis.com) concurs: "Science continues to discover," it says, "an amazingly consistent order behind the universe's most seemingly chaotic phenomena."
I sit there for a few minutes, my eyes burning tired, lost in the beauty. It was like that day, the day after 9/11, when I sat at my cubicle while the TV in the conference room nearby blared the horror, played the buildings turning to ash again and again and again. That day, there were roses on my desk, and as I sat and stared at the petals, suddenly lost in the sweetness, awed by the beauty, everything else momentarily faded away.
A few days later, a friend and I go to visit. On the drive there I realize the last time I visited this hospital was to have Chloe, that frosty Saturday morning in the dark. This Saturday there is sun and green everywhere. Fathers carry empty baby carriers through the hospital entrance to soon take home their newborns. We walk down that endlessly long hallway where I prayed the contractions would let up four months ago; we turn the other way, toward the Oncology unit.
We visit, and there is family and laughter and hugs and tears. How do you say goodbye when you know it truly is goodbye? Maybe, it's like my brother said, when we were visiting my grandmother that last time in the ICU. Maybe it's not so bad to say "see you soon." In the grand scheme of things, this world, this life, is a wisp.
In the car, driving away, I try to think of the fractals. I see the swirling images dance in my mind's eye. I wonder: can I trust to believe there is something beautiful in this; some order behind the chaos of this world where kind mothers with big hearts die far too soon?
I think of the way I'm always wondering.
Sometimes I think I need to take a break from asking, and focus on being, and doing. What can I do to make sense of the chaos? What is my part in the design? I can plead in prayer to a God I can never fully understand. I can help rather than standing immobile, frozen by resentment and offense.
I can stop wondering for a moment and just sit with the wonder.
And so I do, and then I feel it, spreading slowly like a trickle, momentarily lapping away the tears and everything I will never know.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
- 1 Corinthians 13:12