To Everything, There is a Season...
I woke up this morning with this song in my head: "Turn, Turn, Turn".
The Byrds, a 1960s California folk rock band, made the most well-known version of Pete Seeger's adaptation from The Book of Ecclesiastes. It was taken almost word-for-word from the Bible, except for the last line: "A time for peace, I swear it's not too late."
I had the record in what we used to call "single" form, just two songs on either side of a small disc, which is selling today on eBay for $39.99. When I bought it, it put me back all of 49¢.
It's worth noting, although not really germane, that the song was released on my birthday, October 1, 1965, the day I turned twelve.
What has struck me this morning is how those lyrics have followed me since I was twelve – especially these, taken somewhat out of order:
To everything there is a season…
A time to be born, a time to die…
A time to build up, a time to break down…
A time to dance, a time to mourn….
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together.
When I first heard it, the song was about world peace, as it was intended. In my twenties and thirties it was truly about dancing and gathering experience, people, travels and money, and then casting some away and gathering more. In my forties, I had a fair bit of mourning, of building up and breaking down.
Hoping this won’t sound morbid or depressing (as it is most definitely NOT depressing to me), I can see that now, as I near sixty years old, my eye strays to “a time to be born, a time to die…”
I was raised in a generally non-religious way, for which I’m grateful – but I was given a very solid foundation by my grandmother and my mother of what comes after this life. I won’t spell it out in full here, but to my mind, the best description appeared in Richard Bach’s “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.”
Put simply, Bach says that life is like a movie. We buy the ticket, go inside the theater, and suspend our disbelief for a while. We become a part of the action, and get caught up. We laugh, we cry, and hopefully, we learn something about ourselves and others. Then the lights come on, we stand up, and we walk back out to our “real” life.
Many people think of this as our real life, and of what comes after as a sort of amorphous, cloudy, sometimes scary, sometimes comforting place. I think of it as going home, and the peace in that is indescribable.
That’s not to say that I’m expecting to go there anytime soon, although when the times get hard, I think of it with just a smidge of longing. But I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of a movie, no matter how bad it was. I’m certainly not starting now, especially as I’ve managed to sit through this much of it, and there’s so much still to look forward to.
But I talked yesterday, as I do every Saturday, with my mother, who will be 91 in August. She’s very aware that her movie is nearing the end, and if I may stretch the metaphor, she’s gathering up her things, and preparing to stand and leave the theater. I suppose you could say that the credits are rolling.
She has so much to be proud of -- a life well-lived and well-loved, and happiness given to so many people. But the vast majority of her contemporaries have packed up and gone home, and she’s buried two husbands and a son. She’s tired, and wondering what use she is to anyone. She spends more time remembering than she does looking forward, and the people she longs to talk to are no longer here.
So yesterday, without tears, and hopefully without selfishness, I began to wish her well on her journey. I quoted, or possibly misquoted, the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, where Rinpoche says: “Die a little every day, and it won’t be such a shock.” (If I’m wrong about that quote, please don’t tell me, because I love it.) Mom laughed at that, and said, “Honey, I’ve got that one covered…”
To everything, there is a season. My movie is just a little longer than hers, but I’ll pack up and go home too, and she’ll be waiting there for me. Probably with a pot roast simmering in the oven.
Now that’s something to look forward to.