Beings come and go on this Earth, each to sing their own sweet song, muttering them almost imperceptibly as they pass. Or sometimes shouting them from the high ground of a flood.
I awoke from a dream this morning on which my grandfather, Michelangelo, was whispering some obscure Italian Tarantella in my ear when I was a child. I was too young to understand the meaning and awesome power of his simple sweet goodbye as he prepared to embark on his unsealable journey to become something else.
And then we grow into adults, understanding death with no more awareness of the awesome power of goodbye than we had when we arrived. It becomes loaded with other words like love, never, sadness, God, heaven, oblivion, picked up along the way to obscure it’s true meaning.
Goodbye is about separation and it begins at birth. We look for ways to fight it, comprehend it, accept it, all in preparation for our own death. My sister pursued her childhood dream of becoming a nurse, to keep people alive with dignity, finding herself at my mother’s death bed, pounding on her chest to keep her alive just one more day, wailing “NO, this can’t be happening!” On the other end of the spectrum of death, the Ants do not mourn their dead; they simply rebuild.
Humans know just enough about death to mourn, but little more than ants about what do do after. Some of us get pretty good at accepting death by the time our turn comes. Others, little better than ants. But ultimately we have no choice, ant or human, but to accept the awesome power of death, kicking, screaming or marveling at the majesty of goodbye.
Consider the absurdity of accepting, to discard the bodies of those we love as if they were never really in them in the first place. We have no choice in the matter. Otherwise, why would we burn or bury our dear ones?
No, we are here mostly to learn how to embrace abandonment in all it’s majesty and complexity. Creating, hoping, being grateful, striving, feeling cheated, making love, breaking up, sleeping, breathing, learning how to be and accept, all happen around our relationship to our ultimate separation from one another. Although we all die in solitude, we are never alone. For we all share in this common fate.
The dichotomy between our separation and our oneness with everything is our main purpose in being. Out of this thought has come every work of art and literature, every gentle embrace, every healing or hateful deed or word, ever uttered by those condemned to language in all it’s many forms. Most animals feel their own death but only humans give their death and the death of others meaning. To discover and create meaning from the meaninglessness of death is our sublime purpose in this life. Let us not lose ourselves through our work and relationships (like Ants) but rather use them to find and express our deeper purpose.