Tuesday, March 25, 2014

New Life, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Eternal Living

I could hear the frenetic buzz but I couldn't see "a glittering fragment of the rainbow" which is how John James Audobon described hummingbirds. The iridescence of the hummingbird's multicolored throat and wings never fail to get my attention but this time, I didn't really care. I was digging up dirt to plant the dainty larkspur and this was close enough to heaven. I didn't want any more just yet. Spring has suddenly and dramatically arrived, along with a soft rain, in my garden and is stirring life, old and new. "New Life" is also the theme of the Synchroblog this month  along with the 'Spring "winter"  storm of the East' which is bringing life-giving rains to the plants of the West. Flowers in my Garden of Grace are blooming in riotous color, carrying the seeds of the future. Is there new life stirring within me? I recall the NY times bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.


Henrietta Lacks is not a household name but scientists know her cells as HeLa and thanks to Rebecca Skloot, she's been immortalized in the pages of a book and not just a cell culture in petri dishes. Skloot tells the story in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In 1951, cells were taken from a tumor in Henrietta, a poor African American tobacco farmer, who was suffering from cervical cancer. Since then her cells have been living outside her body, a very important part of the world of scientific research, and an example of a cell line that has been reproducing in culture since 1951. The book is a very human story about the commercialization of human tissues and tissue research and highlights the conflicts over consent and money that come into play when body parts are involved. The Common Rule (human subjects research requires informed consent) does not appear to apply to tissue research and informed consent is apparently and quite definitely not required when tissue is collected for diagnostic purposes. The debate sparked by HeLa's immortal physical cells won't be solved any time soon, but I am curious about her soul. Is she truly immortal? After all, this is what divine love died on the cross for all of us. To give us eternal life.

Eternal living - I am living for eternity - then, is the reality of my new life. Not aging, and certainly not fighting growing older but living gracefully into aging, practicing eternal living.

"Growing old," a lady in my church once said, "is not for wimps." Courage, she seemed to think, was what was most needed as one grew older and camouflaging it with impossibly colored hair, skin and nails the way to do it. I, on the other hand, think that accepting aging - really thinking of life as eternal living - and finding beauty in the old and not just youth, is the challenge for our generation. "You have confidence," my cousin argued. "Not all of us can be like you, uncaring of appearances, accepting that we are losing our looks. I am going to fight it every step of the way." She was correct in that I have confidence; it is easy when one has never had the looks :). I am kidding! Seriously, my confidence is in the Lord who created me and rose again from the grave, so humanity could live.

In the age of selfies (photographs of the self taken with our smart devices), touched-up by Instagram filters, instantly transformed into young forever, a confident non-conformity is the adventurous way to live. This is the joy of the promise of eternal life: My soul will live on forever! Therefore, it is easy to focus on efforts that improve one's soul and in the meantime, enjoy the silver strands in one's hair. We don't need to pretend to be younger than we are! I can sing-along to oldies like the Cowsills (way before my time) with as much enthusiasm as I rock to Coldplay, Macklemore, Estelle and Kanye West (I do love their American Boy duet!). The crow's feet around our eyes are a welcome reminder of years, days, moments, of laughter and tears. Every single one of them is an indicator of grace. Nowadays, I eat healthy and I exercise my body just as much, or perhaps a little less than I work out my heart, mind, and soul allowing the creator to weave the connections in a tapestry of grace. My body may be old and my mind growing older but my soul feels very much like the wide-eyed child who bounced out of bed every morning, eager for day, wondering what it held in store. And, that feeling of wonder and gratitude only grows stronger and inspires imagination, fuels creativity, and powers my days and nights with such a sense of play. Eternal life means being in touch with all the life-giving things for which I have been specially created and glorify our awesome master Gardener. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5: 17 Bring it on!

If you;d like to read the other Synchroblog entries, here they are:

Michael Donahoe – New Life
K.W. Leslie – Sin Kills; God Brings New Life
Carol Kuniholm – New Life. Mystery Fruit.
Jeremy Myers – I Get Depressed On Facebook
Glenn Hager – A Personal Resurrection Story
Loveday Anyim – Spring Forth – Ideas That Speak New Life
Loveday Anyim – Inspired By Spring To Create A New Life
Sarah Quezada – Post Winter Delight
Edwin Aldrich – Finding New Life In Our New Home
Doreen A. Mannion – Each Day A New Decision: Choose Life
kathy escobar – new life through nonviolent communication
Anita Coleman New Life, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and Eternal Living
Sonja Andrews Persephone

1 comment:

  1. I've had some of the same conversations and challenges about growing older: refusing to die my hair, refusing to while away the next however many decades in manicures and luncheons. I love what you say about "living gracefully into aging, practicing eternal living." I want to model the values of the kingdom as fiercely as I'm able - at every stage. Even if that means being "a confident non-conformist" -

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