Words & Music are a special way of communicating with each other. If we think about it a bit, we find that we are not so different from the other species who live with us on this planet and in this universe..
The bird and the animals have many sounds that they make to let each other know what is going on. Actually, we refer to the way birds communicate as song. We are all familiar with bird songs: They wake us up at dawn with a song they sing to each other through out the day; and they sing in unison in the evening just before they bed down for the night.
We even know that elephants and swan are known to cry and to grieve the lost of a mate or a friend. There are many examples of dogs who mourn the lost of their master when they are too long gone. Grief is a specific song that helps us to accept our necessary losses.
There are songs that talk of unrequited love, a kind of loss, and songs like Rock of Ages and Shall we Gather at the River that are old favorite songs that are sung at funerals. There have been oratorios & requiems written to celebrate both life and loss of life.
Music and words are the two principle ways that we have to deal with our greatest fear—the actual impermanence of life. One thing that we all know as certain as we know that we are standing here today, is that at some point in time we will – each of us, no longer be alive. The two basic characteristics of life are that we experience vitality and we will experience passing out of this vitality into stillness, a sort of afterlife that helps us to understand our own impermanence.
Grief is the human emotion that takes us over with an intense passion and a deep feeling that touches us through-out our bodies and our human souls. When we lose a loved one we mourn. It is both good and natural to morn.
So what is mourning and what use does it have to us today.
First, let me just say that there is perhaps no other emotion which is quite so awkward and quite so imperfect as grief. It is often quite tangled up with anger and confusion and sadness and even fear. In general we resist having to grieve. Some among us think that it is strong not to cry or not to show emotion when we are caught by a situation like a loved ones death. I think that in part that is the case because the feeling is so intense that we feel very vulnerable displaying something as raw as grief. There is hardly another emotion that so demands of us that we be real by being so vulnerable. Grief takes upon us as a great sadness and a deep hurt that is frightening not only for what it is in itself, but is frightening for what it means to each of us.
In fact, it means that something very important to us has changed and has changed significantly in a way that we can not control. This death, this loss, that has just happened can not un- happen. The bell of death can not be un-rung. Death is scary because it is so permanent. This person that I love, that I rely on, I will never in this life see again.
This fact hurts for so many individual reasons. The ways in which we mourn a loved person, is absolutely unique to each one of us here. No two people will feel exactly the same way about a passing. For some it will be a deep painful loss that will never be forgotten, for others it will hardly be an event at all because the ways in which you have crossed paths is not one that will be a daily reminder of the loss.
Grief is imperfect because it is awkward, because it is frightening, because it involves so many other feelings and because it is not the same for any two people. As we look around at each other, we can be pretty sure that though we are all grieving—the quality and the quantity of that grief is different for each of us.
That is the ultimate way in which grief is a difficult emotion to show, because, in fact—we all grieve alone.
The one comfort that we can have is to look toward each other and to know that each of us are all impermanent in the same way and that each of us need human kindness from each other, and that the person standing next to you will only understand you if you choose to use your words and explain how this grief has hit you in your own unique way.
Finally, and maybe the most important thing about grief is that it eventually subsides. It diminishes, slowly and daily. It is important that we let ourselves grieve and it is equally important that at some point it time, unique to each us that we eventually surrender the sadness, the tiredness and the very heaviness and fear of our grief. As important as it is to hang on to the memory of our loved one, it is equally important to let the memory linger less and less in our consciousness as each day passes and gives way to a new experience that is ours solely because we are alive and we can only take advantage of life if we are present in the here and now to what ever life is dancing alive in front of us at the moment.
This is not something that we need to force on ourselves. The passing of grief will happen all on its own, all on its own good time. We see one day that we have thought less often of the loss, or we see that we have just a tad more energy for something new than we had a few days ago..
However it happens it is not something that you need to make happen. It happens all on its own. And in the same way that a loved one’s passing grabbed you like a tight twisting turnicate, it will fade softly like a warm summer breeze.
I like to tell people that sadness stops hurting at the point that you become aware that the extent of your sadness is really the extent and the quality of your love. In that way sadness eventually turns to the loving, sweet memories that are a soothing piece of who we are.
Sadness becomes one piece of the puzzle of life. And when we look back on who we are it is unmistakable that anyone’s death is a part of you now and memory serves to help you to know better who you want to become and which parts of the love lost you want to take with you on the remainder of this journey.
Thank you, for giving me this opportunity to be with you all this evening. Thank you for sharing yourselves with me and with each other & thank God & the Universe for both the words and the music that comfort us in times of need.
(written in memoriam to Brenda)