“Do not go gently into that good night. Rail, rail against the passing of the light.” Dylan Thomas
I’ve always been unable to let go gently and with acceptance. I haven’t trusted. I had a late start, I think, into adulthood. In a way, I was in denial – denial that the season of being a child had passed, that life as it was, with its good and bad, was moving on. When I had left the life of my childhood to begin my new life, I was energized. I loved going to college, loved going away to begin my first career. Hesitant as I’d been to move along, to begin, life offered its gifts to me.
When my father died, I asked the minister to read the words of Dylan Thomas at his funeral. I was having a hard time accepting Dad’s passing. Before he died, my father had a “near death experience.” The hospital staff brought him back to life – I think this was in the days before patients were offered a DNR declaration – and when I next visited him, he told me he had seen Christ, and he was not afraid. His words were his assurance that he would go gently into that good night.
I’ve lived my life begging God to take notice of me: “here I am, over here, with my needs!” And all the time, like all of creation, I am in God. I am swimming in God, in the Universe, in the vastness of creation. In spite of my willingness to let go, to step into that perfect state of freedom, of being, I am of the Universe, of Creation. The Universe, the Creation is of me. I forget. I forget. I am not separate, on my own. I forget.
I love to watch the tree outside my front window. When I sit quietly and look at the tree, over the years, I see it, as if it is lit from within. And it is. It’s essence, it’s “tree-ness” shows in each leaf, in each branch, in the color of its trunk, in the way it shapes itself in the world. And sometimes, when I’m able to see, that tree is lit from within. Its essence shows itself in each moment.
photo by Mary Elyn Bahlert, 2021
I witnessed my mother’s death – a gift, to be sure. I entered her room after a night away, just as her breath was changing and she began to pass. I’m sure she had waited for me. I said: “I’m here now.” In that moment, she began the final letting go. I watched her take her final breaths. And as I stood, watching, crying, calling out to her, I saw that light, the light I see in the tree, the light that comes from within.
I see now that my parents – not “good Church people,” each gave me a gift at their passing.
And sometimes, I see that my life, like theirs, like all of ours, is part of the long, long letting go that is the Holy, that falls into the Holy.