Friday, June 12, 2009

Marigolds and Passing

I woke up this morning with the thought of death on my mind.  Ok, wait let me rephrase that before I go any further.  I had yet another death dream and woke up with a multitude of questions about life.  A day ago my parent’s lost a close friend of theirs; whenever someone you love dies or someone close to someone you love dies, the doorway of death, the spectrum of questions come flooding right back in.  Like a giant gaping hole in the wall, you are forced to look at it, assess it and patch it up differently this time.  It’s an odd subject because though it is perhaps the most private matter, when you think about it both news and newspaper are daily coverage about how many people died all over the world from some tragic accident or bombing – a show/articles dedicated to death.  Here in the United States we have the luxury of putting a major value on life and life expectancy.  Though this is an incredible asset, we don’t really have the coping skills that other cultures have when it comes to losing those we love.  I am reminded of a story my sister told me from when she visited India.  A woman had died and those who loved her, family and friends carried her body through the streets in celebration, marigolds braided on the corpse, marching through town a spectrum of emotions, some people laughing and some wailing in sorrow, leading the body to a giant bonfire. 

For the most part I think it’s fair to say that many of us fear the unknown in one way or another.  Our culture has such a formal way of approaching death, we send cards, send star gazer lilies or calla lilies to a funeral home that wreaks of moth balls, we pat each other silently on the back.  When I lost a dear friend, I didn’t know what to do and I still don’t.  The comfort that came (if you want to call it that) took over a year and arrived solely through perspective and a sense of responsibility in living my life with deeper gratitude.  Gratitude that I was able to have such a beautiful friendship with an inspiring and brilliant friend, for the short time that I did. 

There is a wonderful poem by Robert Frost called, “The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” and I believe it is an honest interpretation of impermanence.  It talks about how nature recovers after a house fire on a piece of property.  Here is an excerpt:

 “ The birds that came to it through the air
At broken windows flew out and in,
Their murmur more like the sigh we sigh
From too much dwelling on what has been.
 Yet for them the lilac renewed its leaf,

And the aged elm, though touched with fire;
And the dry pump flung up an awkward arm;
And the fence post carried a strand of wire.

 For them there was really nothing sad…”

Often, I think that much of the beauty of human beings lies in our ability to get attached to one another and care of each other as deeply as we do.  Yet like anything else, all things are impermanent and in the words of my favorite Beatle, "must pass."  The home you live in is a merely a structure that gives you the illusion of safety and your clothes, shoes and hdtv are not that important when you look back on what you did in your lifetime.  So, when you wake up each day choose what it is you love, who you want to say thank you to and do it.  Life is fleeting but the moment is ever present and it is the perfect day to do what you think you cannot as Eleanor Roosevelt said,  to set out to explore, to live!

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