The Circle of life

Jeanne, Sebastian, & Mike  a family astride : lilith matilda

Jeanne, Sebastian, & Mike

a family astride : lilith matilda

Let’s talk for a moment about the cyclical nature of life. If you like, you can pause reading long enough to put The Lion King soundtrack on as some nice mood music in the background. With that out of the way, and potentially a good meal on its way to being ready for you (as I imagine we are all always waiting for the next time we get to eat), we can engage in the idea of an equation most humans refuse to see a large side of. 

This topic is on hand for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a conversation my roommate and I recently had of her wishes to be turned into a classroom skeleton and mine to be planted in the roots of a tree overlooking my grandparent’s graves in rural Maine.

Death. And life, but death. When people are afraid to have children, to accept the responsibility of life (likely because they know it’s at least slightly more complicated than having a cat), we scoff at them and encourage them to take a closer look at the miracle that it is.

“Don’t you want to join us in overpopulating the planet!?”

(P.S. I plan to have kids . . .)

Very few people on average enjoy talking about death. There’s a finality to life that we just accept, but the same finality in death is impossible to wrap our minds around. We can accept that, at birth, now this new person will always have existed without even considering the implications, but we can’t accept that, at death, they will always now be gone. It terrifies us.

But what if our embrace of life can help us cope with the loss of death? What if we had a dad who only turned his life around when he knew he’d be a grandfather? What if the legacy he now leaves behind is the life he lived for that little bundle he called Sunshine? Both life and death can be turning points on our road. With the beginning of life we try anew to be better than we were yesterday. With the imminent nature of death we strive to be better for tomorrow. We reach behind and we reach forward while simultaneously having to exist in the here and now.

Let a life lost be something we accept, or even embrace, as a valuable part of a life left to live. Nothing can mend a broken heart, but time can move forward the cycle and we can grow richer and deeper through the losses that have come to rest in our foundations.

When we hike over well-trodden paths we spend a significant amount of time staring at the beauty of the trees without considering that the dirt beneath our feet is both food to those trees and the remnants of those that lived countless lifetimes before you ever stood in that spot. The new trees cannot survive if the old trees do not fall. Some of the new trees don’t weather the storms or seasons and fall prematurely, but they all serve the same purpose: to support life.


For Andrew

He was grumpy and temperamental, but he tried. The love of his life, aside from his wife, Lucy, and his daughter, Jeanne, was his grandson, Sebastian. Along with his son-in-law, Michael, they all survive him. He tried to be a better man because he loved and was loved in return.

Lilith Gearhart