Death be not proud

January 20, 2013

 Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art 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.
~John Donne, Death Be Not Proud

“Thou aren’t so”–Donne meant not “might and dreadful,” although most of us believe it is.

Here’s how my friend announced the passing of her father the other day:

He passed oh-so-peacefully last night, in his own bed, 
after what he would surely call a dang good day and 
after what we would unanimously agree was 
a rich and rewarding life. To you, Dad!

I love this! Her dad left peacefully, on his own terms, at an old age. That’s the way it should be, and I loved the spirit of her announcement. A life well-lived, celebrated.

But, not everyone gets to live out the fullness of their years.

An acquaintance I admired left this life yesterday–too young– after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was someone who inspired others tremendously, a man who was his own person in every sense. I wish I had known him longer and better.

It’s always difficult when someone is called to the next life before reaching old age. No  matter how much time we’ve had to adjust to the idea of their passing, we know we’ll  miss them. And if they’re younger than we are, it scares us, because disease can seem so random.

So unfair, so sad, we think. And yet, there’s another way to look at the death of someone who has been a model for others and a real help to many.  Even when it seems too soon.

Good people are put on this earth to inspire us. They’re people we look up to and if we’re lucky, learn a little something from. We’re better for their being here, and in fact, that’s probably why they were here. And they’re going on to another assignment where they’ll have a chance to inspire even more people.

Like many of us, I struggle with death. 

I’d still like to change grief and mourning to joy … and sadness to appreciation. 

I’d still like to look at death differently, to see it as the transition that it is. 

As the portal to our next great adventure.

As a reason to rejoice.

I’m working on it.

So, Godspeed, Tom. Rest well…and then, on to your next adventure.

6 comments on “Death be not proud
  1. Grace Hodgin says:

    Death is difficult. My mother once explained it as a birth. When you are born into this world you are afraid and would always stay in the womb if not forced out. Death is the same as birth and new adventures await.

  2. Your mother was very wise…

  3. “As the portal to our next great adventure.”

    — this is how I prefer to see it.

    Godspeed to your acquaintance, Tom.

  4. I believe in eternal life through Jesus Christ. I invite all to join me. That being said, the sting of death is severe. The Hope is the promise.

  5. Jennifer Comet Wagner says:

    Just like you said, I’m working on not seeing death at a finality. It was after each of my parents passed away that it was too difficult looking at it in any other way.

  6. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Tackling themes like these can be extremely difficult. Your mom was a wise woman…

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