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A Meditation on the Rhythms of Life

Life is rhythm.

Any music therapist worth her salt will tell you this.

Once you start looking for the rhythms in life, you begin to see how many overlapping rhythms we all share.

We have rhythm in our bodies as we breathe and move.

We have rhythm in our day, as the sun rises and sets, as we move from bed to work to family time and back to bed again.

We have rhythm in our weeks, as we get busy on Monday and relax on Saturday.

We have rhythm in our seasons, as swimsuits and ice cream turn to pumpkin and sweaters and then again to multicolored lights and holiday cheer.

We come to rely on the regularity of these rhythms, this structure that helps us to know where we stand in time and space, what we’re meant to do and maybe how we’re meant to feel.

Staring at roadBut then those rhythms get disrupted.

Yesterday morning, I heard that my 92-year-old grandfather had died. We knew he was nearing the end of his life, and we had all had plenty of time to hear his stories, sing a few more songs, and say goodbye. It was a predictable rhythm, the natural end to a long life, but still, it was jarring to know that his life had come to an end, with the rhythms of his breath and heartbeat falling to silence and the rhythms of our family forever changed.

Then we all learned that many more children and adults had their lives end, too, this time in a more violent, abrupt, horrific way that I had ever imagined, in a school in Connecticut. More life rhythms ended – silenced – with no warning, no hint that the song was coming to end. Rather than the gentle end of a lullaby or the triumphant coda to a symphony, it was having the radio unplugged and a tornado siren blown directly in our ears.

And in yet another corner of the world, one of my friends gave birth to her first child. A new heartbeart, a new breath. An entirely new rhythm for my friend and her family. Sure, she had time to plan and prepare, but how does one get completely ready for the arrival of a new person?

What do we do when life’s rhythms change so abruptly?

How do we cope?

Do we try to get ourselves back in step as quickly as possible, pretending we never missed a beat?

(Can you even do that when you’ve lost a child to a gunman, or you’re no longer with the husband you’ve loved for 61 years or the father you’ve known your whole life?)

Or can we change the rhythm enough to integrate the changes that have already happened?

(How do you figure that one out? It can’t be easy…)

I don’t have an answer. All I know is that life will keep moving on, and the rhythms will keep going.

Somehow, we’re all still part of the song.

2 comments… add one
  • Rachelle,

    I think that our personal rhythms change and change again–through the joys and sorrows we experience in life. If we could see our own development like growth rings on a tree, there will be dark and light, laughter and tears–but always growing. Thanks for this lovely meditation. My thoughts are with your family (with so many families).

    Warmly,
    Ann

  • The rhythm ebbs & flows. Sometimes it is fast, sometimes slow, sometimes out of sync. Tragedy and grief throws the rhythm off but it will return to a pattern – just a different one.

    Silence is a part of rhythm. At first when someone dies we strongly sense that silence. It feels overly empty. Gradually, it feels less so but shows the space/gap from time to time. Sometimes joyful memories can be sensed in that gap.

    I wish you and your family (and those of many other families) a space, a rhythm in your grief. May you find peace in the silence as you journey forward.

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