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How to think about death


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.


Life is Good, My Friends

RIP Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019).  Thank you for your precious words.

I was recently sent a quote that got stuck in my mind and refused to leave.  It went like this –

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

Think about that for a minute.

…your one wild and precious life…

Every one of those words is heavy with meaning, dripping with significance.

Isn’t it?

It got me thinking. 

It also sent me off on a short, beautiful journey of discovery. I discovered (better late than never!) that this is a line from a poem, The Summer Day, by the famous American poet and Pulitzer prize winner, Mary Oliver. From this, I went on to discover her other wonderful poems. And I’m not done yet. But that’s a story for another day.

The essence of that one line makes me think about how careless we sometimes are about our one wild and precious life.

We don’t value it enough to get the best out of it.

We abuse.

We regret.

We fume.

We blame.

We envy.

We look elsewhere.

We get so full of should-haves and could-haves, we don’t pay attention to how fabulous and precious what we have already is.

Why is that?

Shouldn’t we be mostly celebrating our life and the world around that makes it what it is? Why waste a single moment on anything but making the most of it – each of us, as we live our one wild and precious life?

So much better to live in the awareness of how fortunate we are, rather than to get subsumed by all the things we think we should be and imagine that we should have.

Looking for the rainbow in the rain

If we look hard enough, dare I say – if we  look really hard – what we will find is that life is good, life is very beautiful, indeed. And that’s something to be embraced and treasured. Every. Day.

I just came home from listening to an inspiring presentation from a young lady I know who has faced some of the toughest obstacles in life. Born with a birth defect, she has had to endure more than fifty surgeries (so far) and is unable to eat, except through an IV tube. She told her audience that her life had taught her to be a fighter and to defy all odds, and that the many scars she bears are simply testimony to her determination and hope. After each challenge she faces, she simply develops a new normal. She truly appreciates what others take for granted.

Now, here’s someone who knows precisely how priceless her one wild and precious life is, regardless (or because?) of all the hurdles it has thrown her way. 

And you? Would you say that you are living life to the fullest?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”



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