Last weekend I was confronted with a whole lot of mortality. It was the theme du jour from Friday to Sunday. Friday, my husband texted me that Adam Yauch from the Beastie Boys, lost his battle with cancer. First, what a loss to our music world. Good times gone. Cass and I bonded over their music in our early days of dating. The second even more visceral awareness of this passing was that our generation is aging and will indeed go the way of our ancestors (I know, a blinding moment of the obvious). So, May 4 began a deeply contemplative weekend on our (my) place in the cosmos, what we make of it, and what death really means (to me anyway).
To continue on this theme, our UU choir was preparing for our big spring performance. A requiem. A brilliant piece of work composed by one of our own congregation, Cary Boyce. The Flower of Departure: A Universal Requiem was the most meaningful requiem I’ve had the pleasure to sing. Boyce drew from two of my favorite poets: Walt Whitman and Rainer Maria Rilke. The texts were words I did not remember from my readings, but their views on death struck a deep and resounding chord with me. From Leaves of Grass by Whitman:
The night in silence under many a star
The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose voice I know,
And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veil’d death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d
I mourn’d and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all,
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.
Approach strong deliveress,
When it is so, when you have taken them I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O death.
Come lovely and soothing death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later delicate death.
Somewhere blooms the flower of departure
Scattering constantly the pollen that we breathe
For even in the first arriving wind
We breathe departure.
Being a part of this performance, I dwelled in the space of death for weeks and months as we rehearsed. But only when it all came together May 6 did the words and music bring everything home. So sorrowful this death. So inevitable. But time is all we have until that moment, so take the time and make it wonderful and full and sweet so that when Dark Mother comes we are ready to wade into her ocean and then dive deep into the unknown. We are ready for lovely and soothing death.