Hot flashes and holiness


  I am now officially mortal.

In three weeks I will be 49 years old, and this week, I started down the road so many women have been on before - menopause. I guess it is technically perimenopause for me, a word, incidentally, that my spellcheck refuses to recognize. Maybe I should follow its lead, but it is hard not to notice the hot flashes, the heart palpitations, the weird anxiety that hit me several times a day. Hormones are funny things, and when I look up the symptoms you get from losing lots of them, they pretty much include anything and everything.

What is also hard not to notice is that I am getting old. Yes, it's 'better than the alternative' and yes I am super-healthy and yes there are lots and lots of things I am grateful for in my wonderful life. And with all of this is the awareness that my life, my body, is changing, and that its days are truly limited. I have never had children, never wanted to have them, but now, my body tells me, it is officially too late to even have that choice. It's strange to think that my biological usefulness is pretty much over.

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times published a front page article about a young woman with cancer who was determined to have her brain frozen after her death. Her hope is that someday in the future, technology will progress to the point that she might be revived, if only her brain, her thoughts and memories. Her wishes were carried out when she did die, much to the distress of her family and the relief of her boyfriend. Her father refused to give her money for the procedure, saying, 'Dying is part of life. We don't live forever.'

And that is the fact for all of us. We don't live forever, and it is only natural to want to believe that part of us lives on, will live again. This person believes that science will save her, that someday she will meet her loved ones again. I believe the same thing, except through a different process. Jesus' promise of resurrection is my hope. Lots of people think that idea is fantasy, I know, at least as much of a fantasy as reviving your frozen brain. Maybe even more so.

But it does put my life in context, as I experience my body beginning its shutdown sequence. Like the ancient monks who kept a skull on their desk to remind them of their mortality, I get the thrilling and terrifying and beautiful idea that someday I won't be here. And with this, not just the motivation to live for today, but the curiously wonderful image of what it will be like to live on the other side of death. Now that my life is halfway, more than halfway, almost through, it suddenly feels more like an adventure.

Sometimes my soul has flashes, too.