One of the tenderest and most beautiful moments in my mother’s final days was the night before she died.
My brother Josh sat singing to her for hours as she lay breathing raggedly, eyes closed, sunk deep into herself. And one by one all of my siblings and me, our spouses who were there, two of her caregivers, all clustered around her bed in the small darkened bedroom, sitting on chairs and on the foot of her bed, touching her body with love, while Josh continued to sing.
May the longtime sun shine upon you,
all love surround you,
and the pure light within you
guide your way home.
That was one of the songs he sang over and over, singing our mother’s soul home.
It occurs to me that singing each other home is one of the greatest gifts we can give in this life. Not just at the moment of death, but all through our lives from birth onward.
I’m told in aboriginal Australia, every person has a unique song, which the elders hear while the child is still in the womb. (At least I’m told it used to be this way.) The whole tribe learns this song and sings it to the child as he or she grows, when she falls or he cries or needs reminding of who he is. Singing her home to herself.
Whether in music or poetry, through our dancing or teaching, counseling or healing or simply touching each other with love, whether through firekeeping or by listening deeply to another, singing each other home to our souls is the highest expression of each of these arts and a priceless gift.
If we remember this as our purpose, or part of it, while we are making art or cooking a meal or talking to a stranger, we can elevate our lives and the lives of others immeasurably and do a great service to all life on this planet.
We can help to sing Earth home to her soul, her radiant, healthful aliveness in the web of life, through our rituals, our honoring and gratitude. We can do this for all things, whether supposedly inanimate or animate.
And thereby we renew our world. We sing the creation into its fullest expression. We guide our way home.
Singing our way home to ourselves is something we cannot do alone. We are designed to need others to help sing us home—whether they be human others or animals, plants, weather spirits or angels. We are part of an intimately interconnected web that we are required to depend on for life.
As humans we are given the unique quality of forgetting who we truly are, losing our way home. Our myths in all cultures throughout time tell of this getting lost, forgetting and remembering, finding our way with the help of others.
These myths or sacred stories are a guidebook to help us live well on Earth, honoring our interdependence, our magical gifts, walking our heart paths, heeding the call of our souls.
Let us remember to sing each other home and to ask others to help sing us home. Let us sing these sacred songs in our art-making, in all we do.
For more on how art calls us home to ourselves, read The Extraordinary Gifts of Poetry and Art, or engage your own soulful creativity with this creative exercise: Create an Ode, or discover your soul’s home in Why the Heck Am I Here?