I’m sitting here in my office at 4:00 AM listening to some beautiful music. Closing my eyes and letting my imagination wander freely, I come upon a scene of an enormous field filled with rows of identical unmarked tombstones stretching out into the horizon as far as the eye can see. There’s something beautiful about this scene, but I’m also almost overwhelmed with sadness. Each passed life now seems so utterly insignificant, lost amidst the endless rows of white tombstones.
Perhaps to explore this feeling of insignificance, I randomly pick out one tombstone to focus on. Far far in the distance and at the very edge of my field of vision, I zero in on one. Suddenly there appears above this tombstone a sort of screen on which I am given a mini-documentary of the life it represents. The screen begins to increase in size and in the next moment takes up my entire field of vision.
I see a beautiful little girl with long blond hair dancing carefree in a field on a breezy summer day. Wearing an adorable white dress with bright pink and yellow flowers, she laughs with childish amazement as she twirls a dandelion and watches its seeds get carried away in the wind. Then, laughing even harder, she suddenly stops dancing and starts chasing the flying seeds.
Next I see this girl as a radiant young woman dancing with a handsome young man at a ballroom packed with couples. She’s wearing the same adorable dress she wore as a child in the field. The two smile enthusiastically as they gaze into each others eyes, clearly enchanted with their love for one another. I can tell they’ve completely forgotten anyone else is in the ballroom. I feel very happy for the girl.
Then this peculiar silent documentary begins to speed up slightly. I see that the young lover has become a new mother. As she nurses her baby in a rocking chair, she smiles and gazes at the infant with the same amazed eyes she previously had when looking at the dandelion and into her lover’s eyes. Next I see her making some sort of meal in a large pot on a metal stove with four young children running around. She’s wearing her same white dress, though I notice the pink and yellow flowers are beginning to fade. She turns and says something to one of the children who apparently has been misbehaving. But she smiles and shakes her head to herself as she returns to her chore, indicating the offense wasn’t terribly serious. I can tell she deeply loves her children and loves her life.
With increasingly rapidity, I see this lady some years later walking with her husband hand-in-hand with a church in the background. It’s a sunny autumn day. The radiant colors of the falling leaves contrast sharply with the increased dullness of the flowers on her dress. The couple glance at each other and give each other a brief but seasoned smile, echoing the radiant look and smile they shared years before in the ballroom. Next I witness this woman weeping as she hugs her now grown son who is dressed in a military uniform and holding a suitcase. He’s about to board a train and go away to war. Immediately following this I see her sitting by a desk as she reads an official looking memo with great concern. In a moment she covers her face and begins to wail. Her son has been killed. The sorrow of this moment catches me off guard and I get choked up. I notice her once adorable white dress has begun to turn gray and the flowers are now quite faded.
I then briefly witness this lady sitting around a table and playing cards with some friends. Her hair is all gray and in a bun and her face now clearly shows her age, though she is still beautiful. These aging friends are all laughing and sipping tea on a summer day, but there’s a certain sadness one can detect in her face. She never stops missing her son. Her once beautiful flowered dress is now very gray, faded and tattered. One can hardly even make out the flowers any more.
These same friends, now older, are with her and her three remaining grown children as they watch a coffin get lowered into the ground. One of her friends looks tenderly into her eyes and says something. They then embrace and weep together. For a moment I flash back to the time when this woman and her husband danced in the ballroom. It’s a bittersweet memory.
The brief documentary ends with a prolonged scene of this lady as a very old woman, sitting alone in a room and gazing out a large sunlit window into the distance. Her dress is now dark gray and there are no flowers. Her face is very worn and tired. Yet she remains, in her own way, beautiful. I see a hint of the smile she’s had all her life, but it’s tinged with a certain reflective melancholy and longing.
The scene then zooms in closer on her face, and I notice in this woman’s eyes something I hadn’t noticed at the start of this scene. I witness an echo of the wonder I witnessed when she was a child. Given the long life she has lived, I thought, what is she still amazed at?
I find my answer when I notice in her eyes the reflection of dandelion seeds blowing in the breeze just outside the window.
The scene suddenly fades away and I find myself looking once again at this field of indistinguishable white tombstones. I look in the corner where this lady’s tombstone was, but I can no longer be sure which one it is.
It seems this life — and every life — ends in utter insignificance.
Could all this beauty, love, joy and sorrow amount to nothing more than a forgotten tombstone, indistinguishable from billions of others? I find the thought repugnant.
Then I remember the lady’s elderly eyes looking out the window with her childlike sense of wonder. It gives me confidence that there must always be more dandelion seeds to chase in the wind.