Being now forever taken from my sight,
though nothing can bring back the hour
of splendor in the grass and glory in the flower.
We will grieve not, but rather find
strength in what remains behind.
— William Wordsworth
When we the living gather, we begin to pay our duty to the dead. Our debt will not be settled in sorrow or tears, in grief or regret, but in memories, in stories. See, our job as those left behind, as friends, as family, is to remember. When those we love pass before us, we are gifted with their memory. And within each of us, there is a kind of heaven, populated with these angels, the souls of those we’ve known and loved. So every act of remembrance, whether we savor it in a moment of personal reflection or share it around a common table, is a kind of resurrection. It gives life.
So let ourselves become familiar with these angels of memory, behold them ever in our mind’s eye, and from our loved ones, we shall never be parted.
I once read somewhere that each of us contains a certain number of atoms that once belonged to Shakespeare. Perhaps as many as a billion. As a writer, I thought that was pretty cool, to be partly constructed from one of the greatest wordsmiths ever. That if I could just tap into those particular atoms, I’d be set. The article went on to say that we are also made up of atoms from Gandhi and Mozart and Picasso. A billion here, a billion there. Of atoms that had once belonged to lions and worms and trees and dirt. Even stars.
In the words of Walt Whitman, of whom we are also made, “I am large, I contain multitudes.”
This got me thinking. Death, yes, is the destiny of all that lives; it is the only promise life is bound to keep. I had always thought of dying as an end to things. The period on the sentence of all earthly life.
But now it seems it’s just another beginning. That through death, we do not leave life, but get to become an even greater part of it. That though we may lose the form of ourselves to which we’ve become quite attached, we do not cease to be a part of things.
Walt Whitman also wrote:
I depart as air…
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you
Our bodies consist of 7 billion, billion, billion atoms-that’s a 7 with 27 zeros behind it. Just think, then, of all that we may yet become. You can and will be anything and everything. A tree, a bird, a passing cloud. Made and remade. Countless people of every persuasion. For ever and ever. A star upon which wishes are made.
For even in death, life has not done with us. We begin a new journey, to mix and mingle with all things. A journey without borders or boundaries, without maps or measures.
From stardust were we made, and to stardust shall we return.