Death has invaded my life. Some five years ago, a friend died. He was younger than I was. A little over a year ago, another friend died. He too was younger than I was. A few days ago, a friend’s father died. Death has crossed a threshold and left the sphere of the abstract, it rippled the peaceful flow of my life. I am not afraid, no. But my awareness of my own mortality has increased. For the first time, thinking about man’s mortality kept me from sleeping. The dead are no longer the anonymous victims of far away wars, natural disasters, car accidents or social precariousness. The dead have a face now, a familiar face and a familiar voice.
Religion would tell me that faith will be the path to salvation and would encourage me to believe in God to overcome despair and to transcend death. However I don’t look for salvation, I am not desperate nor do I intend to transcend death. I live the life I want to live, and the fact that its peaceful flow is disturbed by the intrusion of death is a useful reminder that this life is to be enjoyed on the one hand and on the other hand needs a constant effort of my own. This is becoming clearer to me every day. There are so many opportunities to be missed by taking the way we live for granted! Critical introspection, the mental drafting of lessons learned, the resolution to abide by Milton Erickson’s idea that life brings pain all by itself and that it is my own responsibility to create joy. Every single day.
When I reflected these ideas I listened to Johannes Brahms’ German Requiem Op. 45, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Brahms wrote the Requiem between 1865 and 1868, after the death of his mother, a terrible blow to his morale. Unlike Roman-Catholic requiems, this one is sung in German, hence its name, and Brahms used for the vocal parts quotations from the Luther Bible to replace the usual Latin liturgy. Brahms wrote spiritual music focused on the living, not the dead, and thus the requiem begins with a quotation from the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
May Brahms’ music be a source of inspiration, reflection and hope to you too.
© Charles Thibo