The Hopi prayer
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die!
Of course, that proved impossible, with the earth still fresh, for the thousand or so souls who came to the funeral. There were plenty of tears shed for young man who plunged with three others into the ocean off Dana Point right out of the blue of a gorgeous Southern California day.
But at the end of the ceremonies, the wake, and as the friends and the extended family members began to peel away home, the young man’s widowed wife’s stepfather thought reading this prayer might somehow help.
And so he did, sitting on a step while her mom printed pictures of her computer from happy days ” him, her, their two small daughters. It’s a wonderful perspective, even if a cynical uncle thought it remarkable how a Hopi prayer could rhyme so well in English.
These are the hardest days and nights for my wife’s sister’s daughter. This is the time I, we, most worry about for her. The rollercoaster had her that night, the first we could spend time with her.
Poor kid, between the funeral, which had people filling and overflowing Newport Beach’s largest Catholic church and more people at the wake at the Dana Point Marriott ” outside, overlooking where the plane went down ” our niece had hugs and kind words for all the people who came to her, metal needing the magnent, something, to hold them. How many? I don’t know, but a couple of thousand would not be out of line for an estimate.
I could imagine her ribs bruised, her heart broken, her mind in that fog when you live something you most definitely are not believing as possible. But there it is. And this is final. Glinting snow, soft stars, blustery winds. Yeah, yeah. He may not be in that grave, but his body sure is. And his loved ones sure feel buried, sufficated in grief.
The poem speaks to passing, to a belief that corporal death is not the end for the soul. For Jason, the poem could use a line or two about surf, about off-road racing, about dust clouds and air bubbles, and especially about the sunsets he made everyone close to him watch.
It also speaks for living, to those he left behind on this plane. To his wife, so full of life herself. To his father, whom I saw as a bull walrus king suddenly wounded and humbled beyond measure. To his mother, trying hard to stay strong, at least publicly.
If you pass, but do not die, well, that’s a graduation of sorts, right? You move to another level, painful for the eternity it seems we’re apart from our deceased loved ones and friends. But there’s the promise of somehow meeting again, when we graduate.
These are matters of faith, conjecture, influenced by upbringing balanced against our own core beliefs about these things. Those range from an eternal nothingness to all sorts of afterlife visions. I prefer to believe in purpose, athough I cannot fathom what it might be. Miracle enough that this exists.
Meantime, there are worse things to contemplate than a loved one who has passed than what is suggested in this prayer. This prayer is ultimately about us getting out there ” where we can see the sun, feel the wind, and live our lives as fully as can be.
I see in the poem a subtle command to do so, to honor the life of the one who passed. To notice these things, and to remember.