“I know what she means. Writing, painting, singing—it cannot stop everything. Cannot halt death in its tracks. But perhaps it can make the pause between death’s footsteps sound and look and feel beautiful, can make the space of waiting a place where you can linger without as much fear. For we are all walking each other to our deaths, and the journey there between footsteps makes up our lives.”
(Reached, Ally Condie)
Last week I finished Reached, the final book in Ally Condie’s YA dystopian trilogy beginning with Matched and Crossed. This passage from the final pages of her story confirms what I believed from the beginning: Condie has written a 1,245-page love letter to the arts. And through all the drama and romance, she beautifully depicts the ways in which writing, painting, and music can uplift, inspire, and transform.
You see this in a place called The Gallery, where members of the Society gather to share the things they’ve created: pictures, poems, fashion, sculptures. Some sing, while others learn to write. The novel’s protagonist, Cassia, reflects on what makes this place so special and powerful: “I like it best when I hear the whispers of those who are here for the first time, who stand before the wall with their hands over their mouths and tears in their eyes. Though I could be wrong, I think many of them feel as I do whenever I come here. I am not alone.”
For we are all walking each other to our deaths, and the journey there between footsteps makes up our lives.
We tend to mark time by the major events in our lives – birthdays, weddings, graduations, the birth of our children. But when you add those up, the number is small. I’ve had 43 birthdays (counting the actual day of my birth), one wedding (let’s hope it stays that way!), three graduations (I’m not counting elementary school), and one experience of childbirth (twins… two for the price of one!)
Compare that number—48—to the total number of hours I’ve spent on this earth: 376,680. (I’ll pause for a minute while you go get your calculator and tally up your hours!) But more importantly, these hours are made up of moment
Relaxing with a really good cup of tea,
Meeting a friend for lunch
Throwing snowballs after a blizzard
Crying tears of shared sorrow
Laughing so hard your stomach hurts
Soaking in the beauty of a sunset
No matter how ordinary they may seem, every moment “between footsteps” makes up our journey and makes our journey worthwhile. That’s what Condie means by “the space of waiting.” And the question she so movingly poses in these final passages of Reached is: how will we fill that space?