Saturday, April 7, 2012

GUEST POST: Dennis Gillenwater

Fearfully Made

(Psalms 139:14)

The thing I can’t get out of my mind when I’m in a crowd of people is all those beating hearts squishing blood in and out of valves and coursing through veins and arteries, and spongy lungs expanding and contracting—cold air in, warm air out—and coils of guts squeezing the last mashed food and liquid along, and yet the people walking around, talking and laughing and praising the Lord or cursing the natural and the Super Natural, like nothing’s bound to happen, while all those necessary life functions go on just beneath the surface. I tell you, it’s a hell of a pitiful thing—life on a string. Freaks me out. Maybe I see things different because I used to be an EMT working on the Big Creek emergency squad, riding up and down Rt. 10 between Salt Rock and Logan, picking up scraps of people and human remains from head-on collisions, chain saw accidents, and coal mine disasters—trying to put those mutilated parts back together. I don’t know the exact reason, but I can’t keep from thinking about the internal workings, what’s really going on inside a body, and how precarious life is. When people stop to think about it, which isn’t often—usually only when they’re flat on their back in a hospital bed—they rebel. They question the Almighty. Why did he design a body this way—so frail? Why all those nerve endings, synopsis, sinews, ligaments, muscles, arteries, veins, valves, corpuscles, and what not, so many possibilities for catastrophe? It’s bound to happen. Three score and ten? There’s a painful joke. That’s like the blink of an eye. Who’s ever ready for it? On the other hand, the first time around, the angels were indestructible. In fact, all of them are alive to this day, all the legions of angels still up there somewhere. Indestructible. Emotions, no doubt, that we’re subject to, maybe a degree of pain. Nevertheless, indestructible, especially when compared to human flesh. So, what did the angels end up doing with all that indestructibility, eternal life, etc.? For the record, they took a wrong turn, a third of them getting into all kinds of mischief, and everyone’s been paying ever since. So, here we are, human flesh, a new design, and this time there’s no call for pride. There should be humility all over the place, coming down like a rain storm.


  1. Dennis: when my old friend Craig Sanderson returned from Vietnam this very thing you refer to obsessed him. having seen a lot of death, Craig couldn't get over how he knew the organs and stuff that were under the skin, in the head. he said he didn't want to know that but he did and it was hard sometimes to think of anything else when talking to people after he got back. you know this is how Larry Brown felt, too, another Vietnam vet who did time as a first responder (see his CNF book "On Fire'). Good piece here, and just to let you know I'll never forget that story of the wreck you wrote when we were working together. Congrats also to Sheldon for a remarkable blogsite here. Phil Deaver

  2. It was my great pleasure to have Dennis write something here for Bent Country. His stories remain some of the most vivid I read during our time in Louisville. Thanks for the kind words on the old blog here, Phil. Hope things are well for you and yours.


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