There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
~ William Stafford

Sooner or later, everything falls away.
You, the work you’ve done, your successes,
large and small, your failures, too. Those
moments when you were light, along-
side the times you became one with the
night. The friends, the people you loved
who loved you, those who might have
wished you ill, none of this is forever. All
of it is soon to go, or going, or long gone.

Everything falls away, except the thread
you’ve followed, unknowing, all along.
The thread that strings together all you’ve
been and done, the thread you didn’t know
you were tracking until, toward the end,
you see that the thread is what stays
as everything else falls away.

Follow that thread as far as you can and
you’ll find that it does not end, but weaves
into the unimaginable vastness of life. Your
life never was the solo turn it seemed to be.
It was always part of the great weave of
nature and humanity, an immensity we
come to know only as we follow our own
small threads to the place where they
merge with the boundless whole.

Each of our threads runs its course, then
joins in life together. This magnificent tapestry—
this masterpiece in which we live forever.

~Parker Palmer

A friend of mine shared this poem by Parker Palmer a couple of months ago. I have been rereading it ever since. In the morning. At night. “Everything Falls Away.” For me, these words ask us to question the things we hold tightly: our most valued treasures (tangible and intangible), the goals that motivate our action, and the reasons they occupy the place they do in our lives. What do they serve? Who do they serve? How do they align with core values of who we are?

I keep reading these words because I gain from them a sense of freedom. In the end, everything falls away and we are left with the core of what we have been all along—a core that, though thrown in the fire of change and challenge along the way, though influenced and affected by people along the way, remains. The poem invites us to rest on what is at the center, this thread which I understand as “precious creation of God, bearer of God’s image and spirit.” It invites to let this truth shine through us, especially as we experience the inevitable changes that life brings our way.

A few days ago, I learned that Palmer posted the poem on his Facebook page earlier this year. Along with it he wrote, “’Everything falls away’ is not an inspiring thought, but I think it has the redeeming virtue of being true. Whenever I’m able to start with truth—grounded in reality—I usually find that I’m taken to a place of hope, even beauty.”

As we reflect on the impact of COVID-19 in our lives both personally and as a collective and the changes we have experienced and will continue to experience, I pray we will carry the sense of freedom of this poem. I pray we can do as Palmer says, “starting with the truth—grounded in reality” and trust the thread that leads us into the new life that will continue from here.