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How to think about death

dead-death-decay-2009.jpg

Does that sound like a morbid topic to write about? Here’s me telling you it’s not.  That’s not how to think about death.

I’m neither a poet nor that avid a fan of poetry.  But I am definitely an ardent fan of the amazing treasure, Mary Oliver who passed on last year. She left with us and our descendents her riches to relish and cherish through all of time.

The way to think about death is to take a look at what she wrote about it.  Whether I am introducing it or reintroducing it to you, it’s worth reading (again). Each word is a wonder, each phrase a discovery.  Here is just one of the remarkable and insightful verses of her poem:

 

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

 

It’s worth reading and savoring. Over and over again.

I am reproducing the entire poem below from the Library of Congress site so I don’t have to go looking for it everyday.  As strange a thing as it is to say about death, do enjoy.  In fact, do more than that.  Take it to heart.

When Death Comes

When death comes 
like the hungry bear in autumn; 
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; 
when death comes 
like the measle-pox;

when death comes 
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: 
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything 
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, 
and I look upon time as no more than an idea, 
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, 
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something 
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life 
I was a bride married to amazement. 
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder 
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, 
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

—Mary Oliver

© 1992 by Mary Oliver, from New & Selected Poems: Vol 1. Beacon Press, Boston.

 

There is a wonderful article published in The Atlantic this month, ‘Attention is the beginning of Devotion’ (stop and think about that for a minute) about Mary Oliver and her words of wisdom, so fabulously expressed.  I hope you read that too and become a fan for life.  Hers is wisdom ingrained with clarity and simplicity that is easy to grasp, easy to revere, easy to pursue.

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