July 13, 2020-
In 1949, John Gunther wrote an account of the decline in health, and passing, of his son, Johnny. I read this book, “Death Be Not Proud”, in 1962, at the age of 11. It has informed my own attitude and reflections towards the transition of people from this life. My father also read it, and it informed not only his attitiude towards death, but the ferocity of his devotion to us, his five children, especially to his youngest, Brian, and in facing my youngest brother’s disabilities.
The book’s message, of indomitable courage and ferocity, in facing life’s worst challenges, came to mind today, with news of the passing, yesterday, of the actress Kelly Preston, after a two-year battle with cancer. This evening, I learned of the passing, late last month, of a maternal second cousin, after an EIGHTEEN-YEAR battle royale with the same disease. Neither woman lacked the slightest bit of courage and dedication to things far greater than herself. Both were sterling champions. I kept looking at one or more of Penny’s photos, as I prayed for the departed souls. My beloved fought a thirteen-year battle of her own.
Death is any number of things, but one thing it is not- is surrender. I am convinced that every person who has ever faced down danger or disease takes the strengths acquired in the struggle, right along with them, in transitioning to the next series of adventures. I am also convinced that the soul sends clarion calls to those left behind-to remember the struggle and apply the lessons learned, that they, the remnants, and this, the world left behind, can rise and truly shine, brighter than ever.
“Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)”
John Donne – 1571-1631
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”