I read the word lethal in a poem, it leapt from the page and I had to stop a moment to consider the impact of the word; for us as humans, for a hospice nurse who watches people in their last hours and days.
So many things are lethal in our lives. Choices we make in our daily existence are
often lethal. I spent five and a half hours sitting on an interstate highway where traffic was literally standing still due to weather conditions, and later found out the emergency response agencies in the state described motorists “in a lethal situation”. I listened as a family member described a loved one’s drinking habits as “lethal”. I watched a TV show and was inundated with the number of lethal decisions made by the characters in the saga of good versus bad. I read a note from a social worker regarding a recent patient admission, and the person’s desire to take a “lethal dose” of medication. I made two visits in the same day to people who were experiencing the last moments of their life’s
Just like when you buy a new car and everyone seems to have one the same make and model, I heard the word lethal thrown around casually almost daily in a week’s time.
Naturally, this made me curious as to the origins of the word lethal. So I researched the word, and found that lethal in Latin: “letalis”tanslates equivalent to death (in Greek: lethe, oblivion) the word meaning of or causing death; deadly; fatal.
And I thought of the human condition, a lethal one.
The day we arrive in fact begins our lethal journey in this life. Although filled with choices that may hasten the lethalness, (such as being stupid enough to stay on a highway with cars careening about!) even with the best of choices made, our lives remain the very
essence of lethal, for every human dies regardless of the life that they live. This does not fill me with reluctance to live less responsibly, or with utter disregard for the value of this day, but instead makes me want to give today my best, not waste time expecting to
find more tomorrow. No, like Mary Oliver, I have to ask the question,
“What will I do with my one wild and precious life?”….