Life or Death Situation

I’ve never thought about this phrase before–“Life or Death”.  This dichotomous choice exist only in extreme circumstances when one choice leads to life and the other choice leads to death.  However, it is also used in other contexts when one might rephrase the question more clearly as “Is this a life situation or is this a death situation?”  This phrase is far to widely used for it to always truly mean to choose life or to choose death.  Most of us use it in the latter mode.  

This week, I requested from the US Passport Agency an expedited passport for my daughter.  In-fact the passport was expired and leaving the next day–(yes, all my fault).    The first question was “Is this a life or death situation?”  Even in my state of panic, I knew this was not a 2-sided choice of life or of death.  Most often, the question is used if someone has died, so one would answer yes, implying this is a death situation, so that one could be with family during this time of bereavement.  A life situation, I suppose, would be a time of birth.  But unless it is your own pregnancy or perhaps you are the father, this would not constitute an emergency.

In our situation, no one was dying and there was no newborn.  However, my answer was yes. This is not a death situation, I explained, this is a life situation.  With great compassion, the Passport Agency met our family needs in this life situation.

My wife is writing a memoir which includes the influence of being the child of Holocaust survivors.  In researching the fate of her father’s family, including six siblings, she discovered that in fact her father’s oldest sister had survived and emigrated to Israel in 1948.  Her father had been there since 1946 with no knowledge of his sister’s life.  Prior to her death in 1974, my wife’s aunt had two children–cousins.  Both families grew up alone, one with knowledge of what was lost, one family with no knowledge whatsoever of their mother’s former life or family.  This is truly a life situation–celebration of a family lost, and a family found.  This week there is a (re)union between cousins, between uncle and niece and nephew, to the remnants of a life previously known and unknown. 

P.S.  A true thank you to the Regional Passport Agency at the Minneapolis Regional Office for their compassion and assistance in our 11th hour request for a passport.  This situation was a true payment forward.   

Jonathan Shaver