As I look deeper into the words of that simple song, I see so much more. The words, row, row, row your boat speak about the energy it takes to get where we are going. But then the word, gently, follows immediately implying that though it takes energy to get through life, living life gently is important. It is not a contradiction to work hard and also work gently.
Finally, the key to the whole song: life is but a dream. That is a loaded statement. Life is, after all is said and done, an illusion. Life is how each of us sees it. Ten people looking at the same event see and experience it differently. Life is but a dream. We can make choices about what we see each day.
As we sat on the shore of the Wisconsin River that day watching the canoes and kayaks moving along with the flow, I saw some people working way too hard. The river would carry them if they would just relax, let go, and enjoy its energy. I saw some get in trouble because they were not properly guiding their boats or watching where they were going. They were unaware. Some were inexperienced and needed the help of others. Because some were not paying attention they landed on one of the hundreds of sandbars in the Wisconsin River or up against the shore tangled in fallen trees. I am also sure that many of those folks were going merrily and gently down the stream in spite of obstacles and challenges.
Grateful for that simple verse that all of us know and for my friend, Betty, who opened my eyes to its deeper meaning I watched as the water of our Wisconsin River moved past me. I knew that it would make its way to the Mississippi River and out to the Gulf of Mexico where it would connect eventually with the ocean that touches so many shores.
May you go merrily and gently down the stream of your lives. Even if you are grieving a significant loss, find a moment here and there to be grateful for something or to remember a joy you shared with the beloved you lost.