Ok. Show of hands. How many of you know about the sword of Damocles?
*scans the Internet for responses*
For those of you who don’t, please allow me to provide the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of the story. For those of you who do, feel free to skip the next paragraph.
In our tale, Damocles is a member of the court of King Dionysius. He is also a rather envious sort and consistently tells the King how fortunate he is to be surrounded with such wealth and luxury . . . to have people falling all over themselves to meet his every need. Dionysius grows weary of Damocles’ constant fawning, so he suggests they swap places for a day, a plan to which Damocles immediately agrees. Dionysius vacates his throne and allows Damocles to literally play King for a Day. But before he does, Dionysius suspends an incredibly sharp sword above said throne, a sword that constantly hangs over Damocles’ head, held in place by a single hair from a horse’s tail. The intent is to illustrate, among other things, that what you see isn’t always what you get. And that great power is not without great responsibility . . . or peril. Needless to say, after a bit Damocles decides being king isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, begs for his old job back long before the day draws to a close, and the story ends with everyone in their rightful places and the world left to form their own conclusions.
Right now I’m pretty sure there are an abundance of people who feel as though the sword of Damocles is perpetually suspended over their heads. I, for one, have awakened every morning for the last week with a feeling of impending doom—a feeling I’m sure many of us share—over the war between Russia and Ukraine. Can I fix it? Nope. Does it directly affect me? Not even remotely. But I’m concerned for the world at large and the Ukrainians specifically—and, in the long run, my grandkids and what kind of mess they may inherit someday. So every morning I wake up, turn on the news, and hope the major cities haven’t been overrun and the Ukrainian President isn’t dead. It’s kinda like watching a train wreck. You don’t want to see it, but you can’t look away.
As hard as it may be for some of us to distance ourselves from world events, there are far more folks right now who are trying to cope with their own personal versions of Damocles’ sword. It may be a lost job . . . a child’s illness . . . a spouse’s death . . . anything that brings unwelcomed change to Life as we know it. And every morning we rise to that feeling of impending doom. That feeling of despair that burrows into our souls, consuming our waking hours, and often our dreams. We want the life we had . . . and we know it can never be ours again.
One of these days, hopefully sooner rather than later, the situation in Europe will reach a peaceful and positive resolution. Hopefully. And my feeling of impending doom will dissipate. At least until the next time it rears its ugly head. However, for everyone dealing with their own personal battles, there may never be a resolution, especially if Death has his say. But there can be a truce of sorts, one that eventually allows us to grow comfortable in our lives once more . . . one that allows us to banish the sword of Damocles, or at the very least, replace that single horse hair with a log chain.
About the author: Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926. She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there. Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.