A few weeks ago a friend, neighbor and musical colleague died suddenly and unexpectedly on his way home from a fifty-mile bike ride. It has been so overwhelmingly sad and shocking that it has taken me until now to be able to write about it. Still, my mind keeps tricking me into thinking it is just a bad dream.
He was fifty six years old and lived his life passionately: in his professional work, his academic pursuits, his creative expressions of writing and music, his love of biking, through his deep love and care of his family and his attitude toward life in general.
His taste in music was so varied and eclectic and he seemed to find heart in some of the simple songs written by and for simple folk. Aragon Mill is the song that most reminds me of singing with Al. It is a haunting southern folk song about inevitable change and loss. His fingers soulfully slid up and down the fret board of his guitar, while his foot emphatically kept the beat.
We are changing and losing all the time. Often in small ways that don’t even register in our minds, but can prick our hearts unknowingly. When a big loss comes along, we sit up and take notice.
A friend sent me a talk by a Buddhist monk titled “How Will I Use this Pain?” It is one of those questions to not necessarily answer in some definitive way, but to hold and contemplate.
In my own contemplation these past few weeks new questions have arisen:
- How can I be kinder to myself during this rough period, and afterwards?
- How can I live and express my passion and love for life more wholeheartedly?
- How can I avoid falling into the delusion that life goes on forever, and live with a sense of urgency, saying what I want and need to say, doing what I want and need to do, being what is mine to be?
- And how do I want my brief experience of life on earth to impact others in a way that contributes to the quality of their lives? How can I share my heart more?
We don’t know what life has in store for us or how long we get to live it. But we can choose the aliveness and enthusiasm that we bring to each moment we are granted.
At the east end of town, at the foot of a hill
There’s a chimney so tall that says “Aragon Mill”
But there’s no smoke at all comin’ out of the stack
For the mill has pulled out and they ain’t comin’ back
And the only sound I hear, is the sound of the wind
As it blows through the town, weave and spin, weave and spin.
There’s no children at all in the narrow, empty streets
Since the looms have all gone, it’s so quiet I can’t sleep.
Now I’m too old to change and I’m too young to die
And there’s no place to go for my woman and I.
Now the mill has closed down, it’s the only sound I know
Tell me where will I go? Tell me where will I go?