“Is it that we come in vain to live, to sprout over the earth? Let us leave at least flowers, let us leave at least songs”
I have been working as a hospital chaplain for almost two years now. During this time, I've had the honor to accompany people as they say goodbye to their loved ones, and have prayed numerous times by the deathbed of a person. At their deathbed, patients are often wondering if their life was worth living, if their lives had meaning.
This work has made me more aware of our mortality and of the ways in which humans connect and care for one another. One of the things I have noticed is that many of the encounters I have with patients turn into poems, the most available means of expression for the emotions I felt.
My Nahua ancestors thought about death a lot. The little literature that survived the conquest tells us about how they wondered about what life was, what it meant to be alive, and how they often concluded that life on earth was but a dream. They also thought that the greatest mystery of life could only be captured in song and poetry—flor y canto, as they called it.
This capacity to bear witness to the world, to life and death, and turn those experiences into flower and song is an ability we all possess. It is about letting the voice within speak in its own language; to not be limited by the structures we perceive but to attempt to reach beyond. To be open to another way of perceiving the world and, perhaps, to be open to new ways of understanding death, too.
To create beauty amidst the suffering and chaos of our world is what Nezahualcóyotl is exhorting us to do: that when we become fully aware of our limited time on earth we can still, at least, leave behind flowers and songs.
Our hearts and spirits already know how to express themselves; we just have to open up our hearts and let both flor y canto spring forth in song, in poetry, in actions that help make the world more beautiful; that help reveal deeper truths; that help us connect to the source of life.
Holy Creator, Help us, in the midst of our grief and sorrow, transform our pain into flower of song that honors the mystery of life and death that surpasses us. Guide us in co-creating beauty that reveals, beauty that connects, beauty that manifests the Divine mystery of all that is.