The Valley of the Shadow
BY: Lisa Schamess
Editor's Note: On Saturday, January 29, Gil Schamess died at his home at the age of 34, just six months after learning he had metastatic liver cancer. Before his death, Gil and Lisa wrote a column for Beliefnet on their struggle to live with his illness. With this column, Lisa begins the story of her new life with their 15-month-old daughter, Mona.
A few nights after Gil's diagnosis last summer, we lay in the dark discussing entropy. We pondered whether chaos, which slows down when it meets resistance, could be directed away from a vulnerable place. The cancer was still only a spattering of X-rayed shadows on Gil's liver and lungs. What cosmic force might disperse them, we wondered, when medicine offered so little hope? Talk had served us well in the past, bridged the bright space between our separate selves by day and the dark space between our bodies at night, mended our differences, tickled our ribs. Now we were desperately trying to talk chaos away from our bed.
Gil had nearly majored in physics in college, but there was never hope for me as a scientist. I always carry the logic too far, shaking a proven theory vigorously for further implications, wanting 20 falling apples where one should do.
"There's a way to prove that gravity is an effect, not an objective force," said Gil. "Say you put a marble on a not-so-taut drum skin, and you make a little depression. Put a medicine ball there, and you make a bigger one. Put the marble down again, and, eureka, it rolls toward the bigger depression. Gravity as effect instead of cause."
"What were we talking about this for?" I was tired, confused, anxious for epiphany.
"We were talking about dimensions, perception, and how space can be bent," said Gil.
"If space can be bent, is it a substance?" Shaking the tree again. I couldn't see his face, just the glimmer along his profile, like an eclipsed sun.
"That's a very good question."
"If space is a substance, can absence be a presence?" My journal entry of that night reflects no answer.