Everything Dies, Baby, That’s a Fact*

Everything Dies, Baby, That’s a Fact*

Notre Dame Cathedral

There is a list of songs that always makes me cry every time I hear them. It’s an odd list. Here it is:

  • When I Was a Boy, Dar Williams
  • Solsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel
  • She Used To Be Mine, Jesse Mueller (From the musical Waitress)

There are lots of things that make me cry. I am a sentimental fool who has been known to cry at a well crafted phone commercial. The power of these songs, however, is kind of remarkable. I couldn’t even type the titles without bursting (briefly) into tears.

The latest addition to this list is She Used To Be Mine. That song and the Dar Williams song are about growing up and losing something. The line in Solsbury Hill that ALWAYS makes me break comes at the end of the first verse and is nearly repeated at the end of the next two verses.

“Son”, he said, “grab your things, I’ve come to take you home” **

Peter Gabriel

Actually, I have no idea what the rest of Solsbury Hill is about. The lyrics make no sense to me so I guess its really 2 songs that always make me cry and one line in a chorus (AKA A Chorus Line?***)

I won’t pretend that I know exactly why these songs have such an effect on me but I won’t pretend that I don’t have a good idea. These songs remind me of what I have lost. They remind me of people I have lost and places I have left. They remind me of times that changed.

They remind me to mourn.

As I write this, Notre Dame is burning. Notre Dame is 900 years old. I am lucky enough to have visited Notre Dame twice with my family so I have seen it. It’s really awful to think that part of that was built generations ago is gone forever.

Yogi, Shelley and my finger in front of Notre Dame in Paris.

But that’s how it goes.

“Nothing endures but change.”


Facebook told me that today is the birthday of one of the most talented people I have ever met (and that is really saying something). Facebook suggested that I wish him happy birthday. Unfortunately for me and for the world, Gary Smoot died almost two years ago. I closed my eyes and wished him happy birthday anyway.

I have been thinking about mortality quite a bit lately. We are all going to die. Someday, no one I know will be alive. It’s hard not to be terribly saddened by this unavoidable fact but it seems, if you think about it, almost silly to rage and cry and scream against the inevitable.

But we do it anyway.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Dylan Thomas

I wonder if it’s possible to stop feeling sad and angry that people die and things change. Maybe not. Maybe if we didn’t feel so much we’d lose something essentially human. Maybe our fear of death is what makes us creative. Maybe our fear of change makes us take care of our stuff and teach our children our traditions.

But I think that most of us fear death and change too much. I think we are often paralyzed by a fear of death when we should, perhaps, be motivated by it. You can not, no matter what you do, avoid death. It will happen to you eventually. It will. And, if you are like most people I know who have died, it won’t come at a convenient time. It won’t come at time or place or manner of your choosing.

Life is shorter than we think so the logical thing to do is to take advantage of it while we have it.

Live with all your might while you can. Love with every fiber of your being while you can. That thing you were going to do someday? Do it today. That friend you were thinking of? Call them now. Appreciate the blue of the sky and the green of the grass and the warmth of the sun.

Take time to remember what has passed away. Mourn your loses but don’t do that so much that you don’t take time to appreciate what you have.

Love your life. Actively, love your life. That’s what Gary did.

If you don’t, learn to love it or change so you love it.

“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

*The title’s from the chorus of Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen. The lines are:
“Everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty and
Meet me tonight in Atlantic City”

**I was thinking of working the chorus of Solsbury Hill in at the end. Like someone’s going to “come to take you home” eventually. Then I thought better of it. It was too much. Yet I couldn’t really resist putting it in this postscript. Kind of like cheating. Sorry. And you’re welcome.

*** What I Did For Love often makes me cry but not every single time.

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