Three weeks ago, Charlie and I came very close to dying.
Two weeks ago, one of my friends buried her husband.
Last week, my sisters and I watched as two men with their names embroidered on the fronts of their dirty blue work shirts lowered our grandmother into the ground. Then like a movie, we tossed roses down the hole onto the casket and walked away, toting our umbrellas (except we were all three dressed in sassy pink instead of the customary black and by then the rain had stopped).
And although I am sufficiently acquainted with death (more so I think than most laypeople), and have been for quite some time, it still shocks me and takes my breath away. It’s so strange that something so grand and permanent can happen so fast and without warning. To me it seems that such an epic event might instead slowly build like Mount St. Helens—little earthquakes, steam eruptions, and gathering magma that stretches the mountainside like a balloon—all giving us some idea of the blast that’s coming. In some instances, I guess that it does happen that way. But for others, it’s more or less the equivalent of having your quiet morning interrupted by an 8.9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
It’s funny how just a few weeks ago, when I was bitten by the insomnia bug, I wrote about those times when a songwriter has created the perfect soundtrack for your life:
You’re sharing a moment with that artist. They may not even know you’re alive, but they wrote that very song for your special moment and as they sing, they’re bringing those moments back to life: your special moments of growing up, special moments with your family, special moments of realizing who you are, special moments of falling in love, special moments when you can say, “This is right and I’m proud to be a part of this world.”
I think that if people ever say that about my music, I will have accomplished everything that I was put on this earth for.
I’ve met enough people to lose count and have heard so many wonderfully, rich touching stories about how our song “Gloryland” perfectly articulated someone’s moment of death and brought great comfort to those who were left behind. Those stories give me a hazy, partial idea that I’m on the right track, but it wasn’t until recently that it broke through and I had a deeper realization. I realized it as I lay in bed on St. Patrick’s Day night, recounting how narrowly my parents avoided a knock on their door in the middle of the night from a State Trooper delivering devastating news… I realized as I was singing “Gloryland” at my friend’s husband’s funeral… I realized again as I was singing “Gloryland” to a full house at the Dixie Theater in Apalachicola just a few hours after learning of my grandmother’s death… I think that I might have finally seen a little flicker of the fruition of my bigger purpose as we all float around space on this little plod of earth.
I’m still training for my 31 on 31. I have a calendar that my training partner has filled out with tasks for me to check off each day that will help me learn to run (and seriously, it’s a struggle, kids). I knew that I wanted to blog about all of this death stuff, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to say or even how to say it until I opened up my running calendar today and found a cool quote that catalyzed the writing process. This is it for me. On top of, “I will be ready to go,” I’d like to live like this as well:
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. –George Bernard Shaw
So, yeah…. Here we go… 31 on 31… and Sarah Mac Band full speed ahead. Get ready world, we’re slowly building up steam, like Mount St. Helens preparing to blow.
And now just to dial it down a notch for those of you that get a smidgen uncomfortable with real conversation and unveiled hearts, go check out some Demotivators to lighten it up a bit.
And on a side note, I can actually remember when I learned to spell the word “thoroughly” (from the George Bernard Shaw quote). The night before our class spelling bee in Mrs. Kennedy’s fifth grade class at Chaires Elementary School, 1989. Mister Elwood was quizzing me on our word bank. I got all of them right, except for “thoroughly” which tripped me up every time. He taught me how to break it down in my head, T-H-O (sounds like “though”… I’m an auditory learner, remember?), R-O-U-G-H (the word “rough”) and then L-Y (which was easy to remember). I actually won the class spelling bee on that word and then got dogged really bad when I got to the all fifth grade spelling bee. It’s just funny because even twenty years later, when I look at that word and read it in my head, in spite of recognizing it as “thoroughly,” the voice that reads it in my head reads it, “though-rough-ly.”