I recently lost my oldest brother, Patrick, to brain cancer. His quest for life at the fullest was one thing that the cancer could not take from him. He was a beautiful soul and his passing leaves a hole in my heart that I just can’t seem to fill with words. So, I will reminisce about our talks, and walks, and profound conversations on the meaning of life with these excerpts from my book, A Journey of Seasons, on the relationship between life and death. I think we both saw that relationship best in the beauty of nature.
…I like to think of winter as the Great Sleep. For while the landscape appears dull and lifeless, it is anything but. Like the circle, a sacred symbol for many ancient cultures, winter is but one part of the never-ending journey of life. The seasons follow the sure path upon which all things move from beginning to end from birth to death to birth, over and over in an endless circle we call life. With so many more exciting months to choose from, December seems an unlikely place to begin a journey through the seasons. But when you think about it, winter is literally the womb of nature and the catalyst for the vivacious eruption of new and hidden life come spring. It is said that circles never end and seasons never die.
In memory of my brother, Patrick.
I’ll bet the sunsets are amazing from heaven!
…There is something of an analogy between spring and death and I search for its meaning among the bursting oak buds and the dragonflies darting about in the sun. I see it in the bright blooms and hear it in the small chirps of newly fledged birds. I feel it in the way my heart aches, both with the beauty of this place and with the unending search for the meaning of death. I stand in the midst of the fervent life brought on by the spring rain and think about the inevitable death of our dear, old friend. Humans question death in the deep, secret places of their hearts. Yet, while it is difficult to love that which is most painful, death in itself can indeed be a joyful thing. However, this can only be so when one truly believes that life is a never-ending journey in which the body is but a temporary vehicle for the soul. When the earthly body dies, we are at last truly and completely free.
…. Our hearts heavy after many days of constant grieving and long sleepless hours, we made our way back to the clearing of the house in silence. Despite our lack of sleep, neither of us felt tired. We took our coffee and sat facing the woods; towards the place where we had just laid our last boy to rest. We talked for hours about living and dying and what it all means – and we laughed. We laughed harder than I ever thought possible in this overwhelming moment of grief. We laughed remembering Buck and Milo’s antics and the many tight spots they wrangled out of. We laughed about their cunning manipulations of the weaker members of their pack (us). They had always made us laugh and it only seemed appropriate to celebrate their lives and their new freedom with more laughter.
All in all, it seemed to me a fine time for dying, or for being born, depending on how you look at things. All around us life was pulsating and breathless in its own race to eventual death. So many things live only a short time before a new seed is planted – and beauty and marvel and mystery are all rolled together into the fabric of time. For us, it can seem eternal, but from heaven, it is but the brush of a butterfly’s wing.