Ancient legends tell us of the swan, mostly silent during its lifetime, that sings a song of great sweetness and joy in the moments before its death. A swan song.
In the fall of 2011, when doctors announced they’d found a donor and were scheduling my daughter’s stem cell transplant, she told them, “I can’t. My concert. I have to do my concert first.” Everything was put on hold until after she’d performed her songs on a crisp fall evening, to the crowd at The Nines in Collegetown. “I wanna see more of you dancin’,” she’d sung out that magical night. Later, I wondered if Marika knew it would be her last performance.
Now, every day I can, I go out hiking with friends under brilliant blue cloudless skies. In these bright days before the trees are stripped bare to the bone, I gaze at their rainbow of fall foliage. “October is more colorful than Christmas,” I tell my companions, as I gather a few perfect leaves to take home. The wind picks up, and red and yellow leaves fall gently. “It’s like watching the forest cry,” I say. The show of color is October’s glorious swan song.
Death is not the end. Death is change. Transformation. Some call it beautiful. It is a beautiful transition. Birth and death are simply two points on a continuum, the circle of life. We have been dying since the time we were born. Every minute of every day, cells in our bodies are dying. Eventually our physical bodies die completely. But our spirits are still singing somewhere. I have to believe this. I’m still hearing, “I wanna see more of you dancin’.”
Rain and colder weather are in the forecast. This may be the last warm evening until next spring. I’m on the deck singing, with my dog, a ripe pear, cheese, and a glass of Madeira. If I sing and dance and do everything like it’s my swan song, when it’s my time to transition, I will have lived my physical life with my fullest heart.
How does one live life to the fullest? If you were to plan out your last great act on this Earth, what would it be?