By Anne McKee / Contributing writer
No matter the age, we all remember this song. It was recorded by many of the big names in country/bluegrass music: Mother Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis, and Earl Scruggs, to name a few, and in 1972 revived in an album by the same name, with the voices of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The song tells of the death of the writer’s mother:
I was standing by my window,
On one cold and cloudy day
When I saw that hearse come rolling
For to carry my mother away.
Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, Lord, by and by
There’s a better home a-waiting
In the sky, Lord, in the sky.
A sad song, but reality … you know – death and taxes, but wait a minute. The real message is the phrase, “there’s a better place a-waiting.” Included is the hope … that we keep the circle unbroken until that time.
The circle is a simple shape, comforting and all inclusive – no outsiders, everyone has a place. Just to see it is soothing to the soul, simple and unrefined. From the beginnings of time, the circle emulated the Sun and the Moon, giving hope and promise to earth-dwellers. In Plato’s Seventh Letter the circle is given a prominent place in all of creation … the perfect circle. So it has been down through the centuries that scholars acknowledged the ultimate importance of the circle.
Why the circle?
The unbroken circle – uninterrupted, continuous, whole and unified … without blemish, sound-and-secure. I know this is the hope of humanity. We repeat the concept many ways throughout our lives. With the unbroken circle we can give testimony to the completeness of life. We offer the great desire of peace to our families, friends, and to even those we do not know. After all isn’t peace our ultimate goal in life?
I am reminded of the simple wedding ring, which represents the permanent flow of the love of a bride and groom. This is not a new concept, but one that was first recorded in ancient Egypt. The historical account noted the bands were woven from plants that grew by the Nile River. As we know, this tradition has continued into the Christian and Jewish wedding ceremonies. And so it is the simple circle, no beginning and no end, which completes the beauty of a wedding – the hope and great expectations.
Will the circle be unbroken? That’s the tough part. Yes, the continuous, pure, and undemanding circle can be broken – sad but true. Even with our best efforts, a crack will emerge, then a wedge and finally the break. The crack might occur by vicious gossip, a bully, or jealously – enacted by others or ourselves.
The wedge will appear because of the lack of forgiveness, an overactive ego, and even the need for integrity. The break, the all consuming break, looms near at these times.
What to do? First, I think, we must not be afraid. We must continue with tried and true principles – kindness, forgiveness, gentle hearts, a continuous search for good, humor, and hope for the days to come. Whew … sometimes we are overwhelmed. I mean how can we search for good, have gentle hearts, yadda, yadda, yadda? It’s impossible!
The answer: think of the unbroken circle we keep until that time “in the by and by.” Remember what happens today is just a moment in time, and then there is the next moment, and the next. Cherish each one. Love your family, love your friends, and yes, love your enemies, because you see each hold a place in your circle and in my circle as well.
So this last day in January, 2014, declare that your circle will be unbroken – then go for it.
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her website: www.annemckee.net