As I was crafting a ceremony for a young man who died unexpectedly from an illness, I was moved by his parents, Sarah and David*, sharing stories of their 22 year old son, Peter*, growing up. Aside from his love of nature and being outdoors he was into quantum physics. He would often spend time at the kitchen sink sharing theories and stories with his mum which went right over her head. Sarah and David smiled and appreciated the following quotes from physicists, Carl Sagan and Lawrence Krauss, which I included in Peter’s ceremony.
In these last few years, Sarah recalls that some of their best times together were standing at the kitchen sink doing the dishes where Peter would fill her in on what was happening in his life and discuss theories of quantum physics. She wished she had listened a lot more carefully to what he was saying about the latter.
One of the things Peter may have been sharing at the kitchen sink was the concept of the conservation of energy. This next quote has been adapted from the writings of physicist, Carl Sagan. ‘The first law of thermodynamics – no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. That all energy, every vibration, every unit of heat, every wave of every particle that was a person remains with us in this world…according to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.’
And, Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, wrote, “Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust.”
It’s likely that Peter reflected upon this and much more, as he explored the science of parallel universes, particles and energy conservation and that, he too, pondered that ‘we come from and return to star dust’.
As much as Sarah and David appreciate this science, it is only natural that their grief and missing him is a response to a deep love and the loss of having him at home to hold and have him appear at the dinner table. Peter, their only son, was the centre of their universe and, for now, they feel like they have been spun off their orbit into a dark, unknown.
*not the family’s real names.