Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Fragile Curtain



A near-tragedy on Thanksgiving Day recalls a meaningful book--and a vivid truth

Nearly thirty years ago, I read a book that made a huge impact on me. It was The Fragile Curtain, by Karen Burton Mains.

Shortly after reading the book, I did a radio interview with Karen, and I've never forgotten it, or the message of the book.

Life is fragile. The curtain separating us from life and death is very thin.

Karen had written the book after a trip to refuge camps around the world--and the near-death of one of her children-- deeply impressed her with that truth. This from her website:


In the spring of 1980, Karen made a traveling survey of the refugee camps of the world. She went to interpret the pain and suffering of these people; instead they showed her the meaning of her own life—and of yours and mine.

There in the crowded refugee warehouses, Karen saw the beauty common to us all. The wonder of birth. the sacredness of words— "I love you," "I'm sorry," "I want you." And the joy of a welcome home: the glad clamor of hello as a new group of refugees arrive at a camp, resurrected from death and despair to begin again.

The six-week journey became a pilgrimage through two worlds: the one of the camps and the thousands and the backyard world of home and family.


Karen wrote:

"I have lived all my life behind a fragile curtain, formed by the small worlds I know: backyard worlds, the familiar ground of home and work.

"Illusion is my curtain's name, the illusion that all is well, that I am safe. Neither is it mine alone. . . .

"We all live behind a curtain of our own illusion. Seeing, we do not see..."


Several times in my life, I've come face to face with the fragility of that curtain. This past Thanksgiving Day was just such a time.

Around 6 PM, we were laughing and eating and enjoying the fellowship of our friends Ray and Teri and their children.

Around 9 PM, we were in the emergency room of a local hospital after Ray collapsed while playing basketball. For hours, we were uncertain if he would live or die.

Thanks to CPR given to him by his son and a friend of the family, the timely arrival of EMT personnel, and many prayers, Ray is indeed alive today.

Ray suffered a major heart attack. Yesterday a stent was inserted when an angiogram revealed an artery was 100 per cent blocked.

While Thursday night we were frightened and tearful, tonight we laughed with Ray and praised God for miracles.

As I'm sure anyone who has had a heart attack knows, Ray and his family have a long road ahead as they deal with the aftermath of this traumatic physical event. But Ray is with us, he knows us, he is living and breathing and smiling.

Once again, I am powerfully struck with the immense importance of family, friends, and relationships as we travel this earth.

This quote from the back cover of The Fragile Curtain sums it up very well:

"Karen dares us all to look at our own lives: to assess the good-and the bad. To celebrate the joy and the blessing of family life. To be thankful that despite sorrow and suffering we dare to begin again."

1 comment:

Tommy said...

Wow,as i look back 20 plus years of a pretty sheltered and marriage of 18 years that now as i look back and remember where we went,what we did from day to day a true blessingof what we had and acomplished in those years.My point that as the days flew by the most important part of our life was how i learned to know and love someone with the most un selfish,unconditional woman that i had ever known,and i did back then begin to count my blessings,learning what few men in life could grasp.my wife of 18 very short years passed away not too long ago!three months have passed and reflecting on our marriage together,i am so much more prepared for a future than ever.a teacher,a love,wife,and mostly a friendship that evolved, and what i take away from what we had,i was taught how to treat someone you love in a way that few of us can comprehend.they the secret of life is there are alot of secrets that turn the tumblers of making the one in your life the happyest every day.Yes life is short! it is time to tell ones that they want them,like them and love that rare indeed someone. them

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