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Billy Joel and Temple Grandin: Where do we go when we die? March 21, 2012

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Recently I went to hear the Minnetonka Chamber Choir. The choir director stopped one of the songs in the middle to tell the audience the name of the piece and what it meant so we would enjoy it more. The piece was” Lullabuy” by Billy Joel who wrote it after his daughter Alex asked him, “Where do I go after I die?” One of the lines that stuck with me was: “Then in your heart there will always be a part of me.”

Here is the entire song:

“Lullabye Goodnight, My Angle”

Goodnight my angel, time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you’ve been asking me
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
Then you should always know
Wherever you may go, no matter where you are
I never will be far away

Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I’m rocking you to sleep
The water’s dark and deep, inside this ancient heart
You’ll always be a part of me

Goodnight my angel, now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me
Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That’s how you and I will be

Here is a youtube with Billy Joel singing the song.

The song reminded me of a movie I saw recently called “Temple Grandin.” It’s the true story of Temple Grandin, a woman who was born autistic. Several years ago I heard Temple Grandin speak at an autism society event and I was interested in seeing the movie and learning her story.

When Temple was four and still unable to speak, her mother took her to the doctor who told her Temple was autistic and should institutionalized. Instead the mother used picture flash card and found a way to teach her child to speak and relate to the world. Temple went on to high school, college and even got a doctorate in Animal Husbandry.

At one point in the movie Temple asked a question similar to the one Billy Joel’s daughter asked. “Where did he go?” Temple asked when a horse died. What she was really asking is: Where did the soul of the horse go? Her science teacher didn’t know, but he told her to think of the horse as it was when it was alive. Temple thought in pictures and so she visualized the horse several times when she’d seen him vibrant and healthy.

Later in the movie the teacher died and at his funeral service Temple asked her mother. “Where did he go?” Like the horse she could see the spirit of the man was gone and only the body remained.

Each of us has to answer that question for themself. I believe we go on to another world to continue our spiritual education to eventually become a co-worker with God.

Temple had a hard time going to high school and was reluctant to go to college. Her science teacher told her to think of college as going through a doorway that is going to open a whole new world for you. Temple visualized a series of doorways she’d walked through and found the courage to go to college. I thought it a beautiful image for all of us when facing a challenge in life. Visualize or think of it as a doorway we have to walk through to get to a new place or state of consciousness.

When Temple’s mother enrolled her in high school, she emphasized to her teacher that Temple was different but not less. I thought of the analogy of soul equals soul. We are all equal no matter when our physical, emotional, or mental limitations are. We are all here on earth to serve life and learn more about love.

As an autistic person Temple didn’t like to be touched or hugged, yet she was unafraid of animals and liked to touch horses and cows. She could empathize and relate to them in a way she couldn’t to humans. They understand the world with pictures like she did.

Temple’s uniqueness enabled her to see things that others couldn’t. She closely observed cows and what made them afraid while she was on her aunt and uncle’s ranch. She used her understanding of animal behavior to design a more merciful way to build a slaughter house for cows. She said that nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be. She insisted that there was no reason to scare cows or prod them along when they will walk peacefully through the slaughter house. She understood that cows were raised for food and thought that was all the more reason to treat them with kindness. Today half the slaughter houses in the United States use her building design proving that Temple’s mother was right. She is different but not less.

Temple eventually started helping other people who were autistic and their families by sharing what it was like to be autistic. The first time she was asked to speak at an autistic meeting, she was afraid, but then she visualized walking through a doorway and went on stage.

When I reflect on Temple’s life, I think of the enormous challenges she faced and overcame. How she turned her differences to an advantage and how she had the courage to make the world a better place. She isn’t really so different from the rest of us or from Billy Joel’s daughter. We all wonder where a person goes when they die.

Where do you think we go when we die? Have you ever felt like you were walking through a doorway as you started a new experience? What challenges have you had to over come? I’d love to hear your experiences or thoughts.

I really enjoyed this movie of Temple Grandin’s life and highly recommend it.

Here’s trailer of the movie:



1. John - March 24, 2012

Thanks Heidi, very well put and great topics. Temple Grandin is on my to watch list.

Here’s a name I recently told a friend about – Jean Pierre Hallet. In the 70s’ I read his autobio ‘Congo Kitabu’ and was deeply moved by it. So I looked it up for my friend to e-mail him about it. An amazing man of love and courage. Here are two websites that relate to him – one of these a eulogy and bio regarding his death.


John (Listens)

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