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  Every Branch in Me — Who are we as "human" beings? Back to the List of Slideshows
slide 16 of 19

Undoubtedly the most intensely personal essay in Every Branch in Me  is "Even at Night the Sun is There" (1)  by Gray Henry. In this piece, she recounts the trial of a crippling disease that afflicted her and that could not be diagnosed for many months. Despite the incredible suffering and uncertainty, she came to the realization that the human state, with its capacity and even vocation for opening up to the Eternal, is so much to be thankful for that it outweighs all burdens of earthly life. She makes it very clear that tremendous strength can come from knowing who, as human beings, we really are, and that these 'branches' can never in themselves be weakened by the weaknesses of the body:

       …it began to dawn upon me why Muslims always reply with Al hamdulilah (the same as Alleluia) whenever anyone inquires as to their health. I had always wondered why one could ask someone who suffered from an obviously terrible physical or emotional pain or loss, “How are you,” and all one could get out of him was, “All praise belongs to God.” I kept wanting them to talk about their pain with me, to share their suffering, and I wondered why they would not. Suddenly I realized that they were praising God for their state of being. The suffering they endured, no matter how great or small, was an opportunity to be purified, which is the very aim of human existence. In an instant, my own illness was seen in a new light. I no longer patiently tolerated it—I loved it, I flowed with it. I saw how blessed I was to have been given, not something small, but something as total as paralysis.

       As I loved my illness, my fingers suddenly began to regain movement. Bit by bit the movement in my hands returned, until at last in late spring, I was restored. What had been the most painful and difficult time in my life turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I had gained a deepened perspective, a sense of proportion and freedom. God had blessed me with near total dependence on others, a symbol reminding me of my utter dependency on Him. And even when I had not been able to move one inch, I was able to be in touch with His Divine Presence.

(1)  Taken from pages 279-280 of Every Branch in Me,  this chapter is also found in the journal Parabola: The Magazine of Myth and Tradition, Spring l993, The Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition, copyright 1993, pages 60-65.

Gray Henry
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