A Hundred Goodbyes | 3.12.23
The Sunday Edition
The genesis of this Signal Fire began months ago, if I’m to tell you the total truth of it. Sometimes I like to plan out things I want to speak to you beautiful souls about ahead of time, the only way I can possibly be productive when we have a life that puts us on the road a lot. The idea came right near the end of 2022 and the start of 2023, after the few weeks that closed out the year that was. It seemed to be that a great number of ‘celebrity’ deaths happened all at once, one after another after another. 2022 was, in a lot of ways, a year of a lot of loss in that world, and while the death of a celebrity has no more merit than that of the guy you walk by every day on the way to your parking spot, they are more notable and they just remind you of time’s passing, of life’s passing, in a tangible way. All that death, all that loss, got my brain spinning, and thinking, and writing, and that’s why we are here today, talking about exactly that. About the goodbyes we say along our life’s path, and what that ends up doing. Let’s get into it.
After that few weeks of aforementioned loss, a poem popped out of me that all started with a single phrase: “Life is a reduction,” and the full poem, which I will post below, spoke to this. I didn’t know where it was going when I started it, truth told, but as all the things I write tend to do, it just unfolded itself, and that was that. Here’s the poem:
Life is a reduction, the lights going out one by one until ours is the last splinter of glow on a sea dark and heaving. We prepare for the inevitability by saying a hundred goodbyes. -Tyler Knott Gregson-
“Until ours is the last splinter of glow,” is the direction I was surprised by when I began the little poem; simply put, I didn’t, until I began writing, really begin to understand that we truly do begin preparing for the inevitability of our own death and, I believe, subsequent new beginning, by enduring the loss of so many in our own lives. Once more, I’m called to remind you, dear reader, that when I speak of “life is a reduction,” I am not saying so in a negative way, not a pessimistic tone whatsoever. Like the Buddhist koans that speak of suffering, I say this just as a truth. From the moment we are born, we begin to lose those around us. We will lose pets, friends, siblings, parents, we will lose houseplants, we will lose animals our cars meet on dark highways, we will lose the elderly, the far-too-young, we will lose suddenly, we will lose in long drawn out battles. We will lose, and we will lose, and we will lose.
Often, in this loss, we will feel like that last dim light on a sea that is indeed dark and heaving, we will feel alone, we will feel lonely, and we will look around and wonder where they’ve gone, all those we cherished and couldn’t imagine a life without. They go, and we will go. In some beautiful way that doesn’t feel at all beautiful as we’re going through it, we learn of our own mortality, our own inevitable passing through and re-beginning, through the slow reduction of the lights that illuminate our way. As each light goes out, as we watch the dimming turn to darkness time and again, I think we have two choices:
We can live in fear of the inevitable end of the story we’re telling, or we can be motivated to wring every single drop of joy out of the time we have left.
Really two, if broken down, and when I speak of this, I trust by now you know I do not speak as though it will be easy. Saying a thing is always easier than doing a thing, and it always will be, but if we say it enough, maybe it’ll make the doing even a fraction easier too.
I honor the lights in my life, feel blessed for their presence, feel warm by their glow. I miss them terribly when they go out, when they re-ignite somewhere new, for someone else, in some far off place I do not yet know the directions to, but I understand too, that some day, some time, my light will fall soft and quiet. I do not know the when, I do not know the how, some things are bigger than our tiny understandings, but I know I will do all I can between this day and that to make sure that my light will shine on as many people as need it, that it will be blinding and warm, that it will not fear the shadows it makes, that it will never dim for fear of being called too bright.
Loss comes around and around and circles us almost constantly. I remind myself often when it finds me again, that it’s only practice for the foreordination of my own end. This friends, this is the giant handful of D batteries that power the flashlight of my own being, the petrol on the flames of the fire that is me, that is how I wish to live the absolute gift that is the rest of my days. This is what fuels me, this is what saves me.
We never know the time we’ve got, a fact I mention frequently on this Signal Fire to hopefully remind you of your own flame, your own lantern, your own spark, your own flashlight, your own torch glow in a landscape of darkness. You SHINE, you lot, and the illumination is blinding, and I Hope you allow yourself the courtesy of seeing it, of acknowledging it, of loving it, as I do.
For the lights in your life that have gone out, I am sorry, so truly sorry. For the lessons it can give you, I hope you find them, and as strange and morose as they are, I Hope they comfort you, as they do me.
I do not fear my end, no, only a life not truly lived, only an existence spent saving my shine for some other day, for some other face. There is no other day, there is no other face.
There’s no other time
to shine the light we’re given,
no time but today.