Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

A few weeks ago, some high school friends and I planted a tree near the football field in honor of a guy we had graduated with. His name was Neil. He’d moved out of state and the family hadn’t planned to do anything locally as a memorial service, so we had our own. Neil never married, but he’d had an impact on many, many lives, and will be remembered and missed by more people than he probably imagined.

I tell you nothing makes you feel more mortal, your life more fragile, than having someone from your graduating class pass away. And for my particular class, you’d think we were having a competition with actors and rock stars this year. And the more of us we lose, the more I feel like our lives are mere butterfly wings.

Walking through headstones this weekend feels more like investment planning, by the way, and my friends and I are just over fifty years old. It’s only right to be fatter and balder–men and women alike–but we shouldn’t be dropping like we are!

At this small memorial service, hearing what Neil has done to ease the burdens of so many, it made me wonder how I will be remembered. And as we talked about other classmates and siblings, I realized that some will only be remembered by the pranks they pulled, who they married, or what earned them their 15 seconds of fame. I don’t want to be one of those either.

A wonderful man once said, “Most children grow up to be just people.” I think he intended for us to stop pressuring our kids to be the next Mozart, or something similar. But personally, it made me admit that the chances of my life being turned into a musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber were probably less than I had hoped. However, like Evita (my favorite), I hope that when all is said and done, and I have been moved from the “above ground” list of my graduating class to the “below ground” crowd, I can honestly say, “Don’t cry for me Argentina,” or in my case, “Don’t cry for me, Davis County. I have no regrets.”

I want to do all that needs doing–and not in a housekeeping kind of way, but in a fearless, pull no punches, “do not go gentle into that good night” kind of way. In a world where so much difference needs to be made, I want to make a difference. I want to be part of history, so that when we’re all sitting around on our headstones, swinging our heels against our birth dates and shooting the breeze, I want to say, “I had a hand in that. I inspired someone, somewhere. I helped put a stop to that bit of nonsense.”

A hundred years from now, I want some distant granddaughter or grandson to come put a flower by my chiseled name and say, “Hey. I know about the difference you made.”

My mother’s headstone. She’ll be remembered for more than just her last joke–“She finally got to go somewhere.”

So, I guess I’d better get to it. My high school teachers always expected me to be the rebellious sort and I’d hate to let them down. And considering the mortality rate of my graduating class, I can’t assume I have a lot of time left to make that difference. Right? But what about you? How are you going to rage against the dying of the light? What can you do to get your story started–that story you’ll tell when you’re a ghost?

In honor of those who have already fallen, in their own fights, or fighting for others, I want to leave you with the lyrics to a song befitting Memorial Day. My son loves musicals, so we’ve been driving around lately with the Les Miserable CD playing. Each time I hear this song, it grabs my soul and squeezes. And if you are brave enough to listen and appreciate Eddie Redmayne’s heart-stopping performance, watch this version.

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone.

Here they talked of revolution
Here it was they lit the flame
Here they sang about ‘tomorrow’
And tomorrow never came

From the table in the corner
They could see a world reborn
And they rose with voices ringing
I can hear them now
The very words that they had sung
Became their last communion
On the lonely barricade at dawn!

Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me
That I live and you are gone.
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on.

Phantom faces at the window
Phantom shadows on the floor
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more.

Oh my friends, my friends, don’t ask me
What your sacrifice was for
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will sing no more.

Aux armes, citoyens! (To arms, citizens!)

 

LL Muir

Deep down, to the underside of my toenails, I love the romantic dream that is Scotland. I love the bit of Scottish grit that flowed from my ancestors' blood into mine. It sifts down to the bottom now and again, but it only takes a couple of stuttered heartbeats to stir it up again. And when my blood is stirred, I write.
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LL Muir

Deep down, to the underside of my toenails, I love the romantic dream that is Scotland. I love the bit of Scottish grit that flowed from my ancestors' blood into mine. It sifts down to the bottom now and again, but it only takes a couple of stuttered heartbeats to stir it up again. And when my blood is stirred, I write.

2 thoughts on “Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

  • Jennae Vale
    May 30, 2016 at 2:58 pm
    Permalink

    I love this. I got a little teary eyed reading the lyrics. I’m at that age you speak of, when childhood friends are starting to depart into the great unknown. It definitely has rocked me back on my heels and caused me to think a little more about my life, especially when I hear that someone who was so full of life and fun, someone I remember as being 17, is now gone. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

    Reply
    • May 30, 2016 at 3:03 pm
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      Bless your heart, Jennae. We share more club memberships than we knew!

      Reply

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