By Qin Sun Stubis
From the lonely darkness of space, Earth proudly broadcasts to the universe the rich hues of green, white, and most especially, blue…an alluring, azure reflection of her bountiful water, the cradle of all life on our planet. Whether animals or plants, fish or humans, we all depend on it, salt or plain.
Water hydrates and cleanses us. It surrounds and becomes us. Not only are we made mostly of water, it has saturated all aspects of our lives, spiritual and mundane, from religious baptism to Chinese water torture, from water-splashing festivals in some parts of the world to pressure-cleaning our houses and driveways.
Water is the basis of life and has a strangely versatile character. It can be clear and pure, or dark and unfathomable. It can be peaceful and nurturing, or raging and punishing. And, it is the dark and mysterious side of water that often guides us through the difficult time of losing a loved one, leading us to the belief of a place beyond life.
I remember sitting on a couch one day, watching a documentary on Abraham Lincoln, my most beloved American president. I stared at the scene with moist eyes as he died in the Petersen House across from Ford’s Theatre. Those around Mr. Lincoln placed a silver dollar on each of his eyes, the fee for the mythical ferryman to take him across to the other side.
Surprisingly, leaving this world by water has been a universal belief. People in China, too, believe in us arriving and departing on a boat. When two people pass away within a short time, for example, they are often said to be “sharing the same ferry.” Similarly, when babies are born within minutes of each other, they are supposed to have “arrived on the same boat.”
Lord Alfred Tennyson, a 19th-century English Poet Laureate, elegantly put into words his own projected journey from life to the beyond when he wrote Crossing the Bar. He saw death as a final trip across a sandbar, departing the shores of life and returning to the “boundless deep” of the sea. Though only a poem, many have that last journey toward the imperturbable ocean blue. With the ferryman taking us back to our cradle, the ocean, and beyond, the deep blue water plays yet another important part in our lives, a bridge, linking us to eternity.
You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.