For A Dancer

One of the most beautiful, yet saddest songs about death that I have ever heard is Jackson Browne’s For a Dancer. Maybe you’ve heard it? In my teens, friends and I loved JB’s album, “Late for the Sky,” in which the studio version of For a Dancer can be found on.

My friend Regina, who recently passed away, loved to dance and sing. I can remember being in the upstairs of her house where in her parents bedroom (the biggest room of the house), we would dance around in a circle, practicing her choreographed interpretation of The Skater’s Waltz. Now this was certainly not my idea, and probably not even my idea of a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon when your 9 or 10, but Regina could be very persuasive and she always made me laugh.

Mt.Hood 8_2013 002Death follows us throughout our short lives, peripherally, if not front and center, when we are touched by its presence – through the loss of a loved one, or as well, through our own brushes with death. Its inevitability creates the tension that gives each life its uniqueness and the mystery of our individual being.

Why are we here, rather than not here? Why now, why not some other time? What is death, what precedes it, and what follows?

On the one hand, if nothing precedes it or follows it, no big deal, some people will tell you. But it’s not the impermanence of life that gives me pause as much as it the mystery of life in the first place.

Some of us don’t like to think much about death, and will tell you that it is morbid to do so. Some find it easier to come to conclusions about what happens to us – either convinced that there is life beyond death, or that we die and that’s it, gone as if we’ve never been here in the first place.

I have a deep respect for the limits of what we can know, and I can’t define with certainty the nature of what life or death is.

But I sense that somehow, whatever it is that beats our hearts, and sustains our physical presence, is not a product of our biology, but the source of what creates our physical form and sustains us.  I’m not a scientist, or anything close to that, but there are many invisible forms of energy around us that don’t seem to exist until they are translated by some sort of device. Think radio, micro, and other waves/particles that surround us without us in any way sensing them. Maybe we are translators of God’s uncreated source of all there is.

But death is also important as an operative metaphor for change in the life we live now, and so is worth attending to, in all the hundreds of ways death will visit us. Whether through actual physical death of loved ones, or the little deaths we experience through life’s changes. Death, while seeming to be an end, or a cessation, is also transition, and movement in which we are remade, revised and reborn. Live, love, laugh and cry and when someone asks you to dance, say yes.

“I don’t know what happens when people die.

Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try.

It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear

That I can’t sing

I can’t help listening.

And I can’t help feeling stupid

Standing around

Crying as they ease you down

‘Cause I know that you’d

Rather we were dancing”

Jackson Browne – For A Dancer

11 thoughts on “For A Dancer

  1. I was not familiar with this song. Thank you so much for the layers of loveliness you offer up here!

    Before sharing your current thought trajectory with such courage to talk about those tender feelings at the departure to the next adventure of your precious Regina, I also had been contemplating death. There had been a strange hiccup in my father’s family related to plots at the cemetery… and without judgement, these are good “church going” people who forgot for a moment about a focus on their relationships here and now rather than allowing a conflict over placement at death to create divisions. Then a few weeks after that, another person chose their life by jumping off a bridge near my home. This contemplation then continued on, inspired by watching a series on the gardens of Italy, some which were created in the 1600’s. Watching with an eye reminded of our history, I could not help but think about the people who designed them hundreds of years ago and how relatively briefly they were able to enjoy them in the time currently allowed in the span of a human life. We are here as we are for such a relatively short period of time.

    I have no children to offer some sense of a physical link here after I pass on, but I have planted a few trees in my time so far that will remain giving beauty and shade long after my form has returned to a bed of roses.

    It was then my trip to Powell’s to look for “Alchemical Psychology” that caused me to finally purchase the Tibetan Book Of Living and Dying. I know there is controversy surrounding it’s author, but in my experience, this does not prevent deep wisdom from still being shared. I am reading slowly and enjoying much of what I am finding. I will be sure to share anything that floats to the surface for me with a post.

    Such interesting thoughts about death can be inspired in the most poignant of places.

    Again, we all benefit when others have the courage to be transparent within their experience of events that we all have and will share here. Thank you for doing this so beautifully with yours. -x.M

    I will leave these links for anyone else who is also currently following similar trajectories:


    1. M, the synchronicity or perhaps commonality between our lives, seems to be accumulating here.
      Thank you for the links and for sharing so much of yourself.
      No children here either and just spent the winter helping my mom and step dad move into a nursing home and unfortunately experienced some difficulties with well-meaning church people.
      So, yes, death and transitions have been on my mind too, even before Regina’s passing.
      I think that transparency is needed between us humans, as difficult as it can be. I know it helps me realize that we are not alone and have more in common than we sometimes think.


      1. Had wanted to get you the tangible expression that the body had on receiving the reply above: 🙂 . That is at the connections we share with a happy heart and a poignant one at the challenges for this time in the trajectory of your mom’s timeline. I am not close with my mother in a day to day sense, but I hope when her time comes to transition (in whatever steps or forms it takes) she will allow those of us who love her to help her if she needs it, too.

        I do share lots of the life story that is attached to the details of “seeingM”, but it is almost always done with the hope that it is the lessons underneath that can be shared, as in focus and can be seen. To help someone else avoid a pothole I have twisted my ankle in or to give a hard won tool away is a joy. Thank you for the thank you D, and it is right back at you to for being willing to engage!

        With the thought directory on transparency and moms life flow as gifts for teaching I offer the following as a record here:

        I hope you have a stellar week in your corner of the adventure. With a focus of cleaning the inner home, with challenging lessons being learned, we are earning access to these more and more. -x.M


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