for my Uncle Teddy
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
(—–From On Death by Khalil Gibran )
When I think about the brutality of life, I think about discoloration of breath. Paper cuts from every card we receive and all the letters reminding us of the life and lives ribbon’d around us.
I think about traffic jams within one’s brain stem; I think about every sunset that waits to be seen until it can no longer hold its breath or body weight.
What can we learn from death before it claims us too? We can learn the best ways to make the ones around us laugh. We can learn how to eat without worrying of its contents, but rather to enjoy the way it celebrates our taste buds. We can learn how to cut away the gristle of overwhelm and stress before we realize we’ve spent weeks, months, years forgetting how to live.
Here we are today and it is often new life or death, which collects us into the same room. Why must we wait?
From death, we can learn that to really live is to really ask how are you and remain. And continue asking.
To climb mountains but also just cross streets without forgetting how everything around us was built by human hands or by the musculature of earth.
To mourn is to gather. To mourn is to engage with every bit of life around you. To mourn is to honor who we have lost by living as loudly and beautifully and authentically as we possibly can.