Cicada Song

for rent - slightly used cicada exoskeleton, s...

“Lord my body’s been a good friend.   I won’t need it when I reach the end” -Cat Stevens

A friend of mine molted this week.

Every summer, we have a ton of cicadas in our yard.  I always thought they were on some kind of boom and bust cycle, but we have them every year.  If you have cicadas, you have exoskeletons.  The exoskeleton is the papery part left behind when the cicada molts.  These days, all my kids love to collect cicada exoskeletons, which they affectionately call “exos”.

But when my oldest son was four, he was puzzled about all the exoskeletons littering our yard.  They look like live bugs at first, so he was startled  to find that they weren’t alive.  I explained that the cicadas had grown and changed.  They didn’t need their old outer “shell” anymore, so they left it behind and flew away.  The shell would go back into the ground, and help make new soil.  He seemed satisfied with this explanation, and went back to playing.

Autumn came, and I forgot about the cicadas.  When my grandmother died in early November, I wanted to find the right words to talk to Asher about it.  I tried to explain  that her life in that body was over, but that she wasn’t actually dead.  We talked about how the part of her that thinks, feels, loves, and remembers will live forever.   I was expecting it to be a pretty difficult concept for a four year old.

We adults sometimes have no clue.

His face lit up and he exclaimed, “It’s just like the cicadas.  They changed form and flew away.  They went on living, but they didn’t need their outer shells anymore so they left them behind.  That’s just what Grandma did.  She left behind her shell and flew away.”

With that settled, he went back to playing.

Like I said, a friend of mine molted this week.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful or ridiculous, but I think words are important.  My friend thought so too.  We are both the kind of people that spend hours meditating on the meaning of a word, or searching for just the right word to convey an idea.   So when I hear people talk about death, and the silly euphemisms we use in our (unsuccessful) attempts to hide our discomfort, it bothers me.  We need to acknowledge the mystery, the uncertainty.  What really happened here?

He didn’t die.  He had already crossed over from death to life,  so that’s not a satisfactory explanation.

We didn’t “lose” him.  It sounds like he was misplaced.

I’m not convinced that he “went home”.  I guess it depends on your definition of home.

He didn’t “pass away”.  Even the laws of physics say that can’t happen.

So what are we left with?  He changed form.  He left his body behind.

He molted.

I know that he wrestled with this reality, and you should, too.  I want to leave you with  some of the best lyrics that this friend,  Jeremy Erickson, ever wrote:

Not So Lonely  (Nancy’s Song)

I may be alone,but I am not so lonely

Not as far as I can tell

I may be frail but I am not so afraid

I’m not dependent on myself

And I won’t go  alone

I will look up to the mountains

And I will see my savior coming

With all the love I’ve longed to know

I will listen to the heavens

And I will hear my father laughing

Telling me its time to go

And I won’t go alone

I may be a fool but I am not so foolish

to believe a God who cries

I may be dying but you won’t find me crying

‘Cause my home is in the skies

And I won’t go alone

My body’s broken

My body’s broken, but I’m holding on

And I won’t miss it when I’m gone.

If you’d like to hear this song, you can download it here.

You can read the story behind the song in Jeremy’s own words here.

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