Gifted minister and musician David Ault told me an extraordinary story: After David’s sister had passed last year, he took his mother to visit his sister’s grave. To David’s surprise, he noticed that another gravesite had been reserved next to his sister’s.
"Who is that gravesite for?" he asked his mom.
"Me," she answered.
"Are you ill?"
"No, I just want to be near my family."
Though startled, David was pleased at the loving foresight behind his mom’s decision.
"Then may I have this dance?" David asked his mom.
"What do you mean?"
"Let’s dance on your grave."
Mom took a moment of thought and answered, "Well, that sounds like a great idea!" And dance the two did. Probably one of the most memorable of their lives.
As we approach the end of this year, issues of parting and completion may come up for many of us. Another year gone by, and what do we have to show for it? Perhaps you have had to say goodbye to a relationship, job or living situation. Perhaps a loved one has passed on. Life is full of beginnings and endings, and all of us have our share.
We are all familiar with the marriage vow, "Til death do us part." For some people, this promise strikes a note of hope and vision for a lifetime connection. For others it breeds terror at the prospect of a commitment never to be escaped.
Death is not a happy prospect for most of us, and rightfully so. Death should be distasteful, for it is only half of the story of life changes. If we are to look upon death honestly, we must acknowledge that on its other side is life. Death is not a ticket to oblivion, but a corridor to greater light.
I would suggest that marriage, relationship, career or goal vows include the phrase, "TIL BREATH DO US PART." If something ends, it is for two reasons:
- The life force that initiated and sustained it is no longer breathing through it.
- That same life force is moving in a new direction.
In the big picture of life, our commitment to life force is far more important than a commitment to something that was once imbued by the spirit of joy but no longer is.
Before you get your knickers in a knot and interpret this suggestion as a blanket license to run away from relationships or carte blanche for commitment phobia, hear this: Many relationships, jobs and living situations still do bestow life force, and will bless to continue. In our latté-on-the-run society, our attention span has shrunk to sound bytes no longer than a fleeting MTV scene, and many of us are hard-pressed to sit still long enough to be fully present with whatever we are doing. This is a far greater spiritual malady than the ending of a particular relationship or job. If speed is an addiction, our culture is a hardcore junkie. Pascal noted, "All of man’s troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone." Gandhi echoed, "There is more to life than increasing its speed." Or running to the next thing before you are complete with the last.
When breath, not death, becomes your guide, crossroad choices become far clearer and easier. A Course in Miracles tells us, "When you have learned how to decide with God, all decisions become as easy and as right as breathing. There is no effort and you will be led as gently as if you were being carried down a quiet path in summer." Now that sounds a lot more appealing than angst-ing over whether you should stay or leave.
If someone or something has left you by surprise, or seemingly unfairly, you are in a perfect position to affirm, "Til breath do us part." Life itself is breath, and if Great Spirit has breathed someone out of your life, there is a reason. Rest assured that the same life force that breathed them out will breathe someone or something else in. Spirit is intelligent and responsible. Know this, and fear will have no power over you.
Everyone comes into our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Some people show up for a momentary shared purpose and move on as quickly as they came. Others walk by our side for a significant phase of life. (Sometimes those who challenge us fall into this category, as well.) Others are lifetime companions, and we are truly blessed by these. Real friends are with us even when we do not see them, as we are with them.
Breath brings us together and breath moves us apart. Breath starts years and ends them. The breath of life is like the breath of our body: for every breath out, there is a new one in. Inspiration, release; inspiration, release. Let us complete this year not with regret or lament, but with breath, which not only does us part, but most profoundly does us join.