The last breath and the first breath

For the last six months I’ve been marveling at the phenomenon of breathing. I was the one in the room when my father breathed in his last breath and let his last one out slowly and peacefully. As he breathed his last breath I held his arm and I held my breath. It only hit me recently that when I breathed in again I breathed in part of his last out-breath, as did the members of my family when they joined me in the room soon after.

In his last days my Dad continued to do what he had done all my life – he shared breath with us. We inhaled and exhaled together. We got all mixed up with each other.

In his last days those who sat with him breathed love and compassion and gratitude and grief into the air and he inhaled it, and his love and compassion and gratitude and grief was exhaled, and we breathed that in and we were one.

The first breath
when we are born
we need to take a breath
the tiniest human body discovering its lungs
taking in a portion of air
a slight unnoticed act we have no memory of,
a unique and powerful phenomenon
that alters every other thing in some measure.

for the air in that breath isn’t simply air
as if the air is a neutral disconnected thing

the air is an accumulation
an ancient system of to-ing and fro-ing
this molecule to that
this particle to that
from here to there
(as in times past to times present)
from seabed to shell
from wave to shore
from ground to plant

borne or blown
to where we find ourselves
with our first intake of breath
and every breath thereafter
connected with
all that is living
and all that has lived

all one
all now
all gift

martin stewart 2016



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