A BEAUTIFUL MEDITATION ON LIFE AND DEATH

SHE DIED AND….

At that moment, there were 3,​147,​740,​103,​497,​276,​498,​750,​208,​327 atoms in her body. Of her total mass, 63.7 percent was oxygen, 21.0 percent carbon, 10.1 percent hydrogen, 2.6 percent nitrogen, 1.4 percent calcium, 1.1 percent phosphorous, plus a smattering of the ninety-odd other chemical elements created in stars. 

In the cremation, her water evaporated. Her carbon and nitrogen combined with oxygen to make gaseous carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which floated skyward and mingled with the air. Most of her calcium and phosphorous baked into a reddish brown residue and scattered in soil and in wind.

But then we see that every atom belonging to her — or, rather, temporarily borrowed by her — truly does belong to everything and everyone, just as you and I are now inhaling the same oxygen atoms that once inflated Walt Whitman’s lungs with the lust for life:

Released from their temporary confinement, her atoms slowly spread out and diffused through the atmosphere. In sixty days’ time, they could be found in every handful of air on the planet. In one hundred days, some of her atoms, the vaporous water, had condensed into liquid and returned to the surface as rain, to be drunk and ingested by animals and plants. Some of her atoms were absorbed by light-utilizing organisms and transformed into tissues and tubules and leaves. Some were breathed in by oxygen creatures, incorporated into organs and bone.

 Alan Lightman

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