Life & Death


Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.
Now what?

William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, 1933

We forget ourselves and our destinies in health;
and the chief use of temporary sickness
is to remind us of those concerns.


Ralph Waldo Emerson,  Journal


Makah poem Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep Solo Poppy
Kindness Kindness
Dylan Do Not Go Gentle
Isaiah Isaiah 43:1-5
Memoriam In Memoriam & Straight Answers "Solo Poppy" --
Original photo by Lehua
Dreams The final lesson for the hataalii
Dreams Throw off the Bow Lines  
Dreams Pieter's poem about living life Dreams My Death -- William Purcell
Happy for a Moment Happy for a moment Heaven Why not play croquet?
Heaven Thoughts on Heaven Heaven What is life?

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Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken
in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I did not die.

-- Mary Elizabeth Frye
[ See some background on the attribution, contributed by Dr. L.B. Sandy Rock in Washington.]

Kindness
Naomi Shohab Nye
(Contributed by Steve Baron)

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close
of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know
dark is right,
Because their words had forked no
lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying
how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a
green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun
in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its
way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with
blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and
be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad
height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce
tears, I pray
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-- Dylan Thomas


"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...
you are precious and honored in my sight, ..because I love you..
Do not be afraid, for I am with you..."

Isaiah 43:1-5

-- Contributed by Claudia Meydrech, CIS Cancer Forum

 


Why not play croquet?

I feel sorry for the beautiful Protestant girls, they're doomed.  That's what the priests tell us.  Outside the Catholic Church there is nothing but doom.  ... I go with my friend Billy Campbell to watch them play croquet... I wonder how they can laugh or don't they even know they're doomed?  I feel sorry for them, and I say, Billy, what's the use of playing croquet when you're doomed?

He says, Frankie, what's the use of not playing croquet when you're doomed?

                  -- Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes


My Death
Sunset of the Coastanoan peopleI do not fear my death.  Neither do I allow this great adventure to worry me.  It is something I have already prepared myself for in the days of my youth.  I have known since the time of my birth that my true inheritance in this world would be a death befitting whatever, and whoever, it was that I had become.  

My dream has always been to die a warrior's death.  My life ending by the swiftness of an arrow or a fatal blow from a war club.  And yet, I must admit, a peaceful end would also be a good way to die.  Surrounded by those I love within the comfort and warmth of my lodge, listening to the sounds of their grief, while the holy men sing prayers and anoint my body to help my spirit climb to that higher plain, that would also be a good way to die.

But to have my life end, knowing that my exploits and deeds would be remembered by those I leave behind, is still the best end that I could wish for.  That is why I do not fear my death.  Instead I sometimes find myself hungering for the glory that it could bring to me.

And besides, I know in my heart that, the Great Spirit will allow me to join all those who have gone before.  Oh how I would like to be able to once again nestle in the arms of my beloved mother.  To become a child again and suckle at her breast.  In my old age I have longed for the soft caresses and the whispered words of undying love that can only exist between a mother and her child.  I have travelled the sacred paths and journeyed through the circle of life and all I want now is to be reborn into my mothers loving arms.  
I would also like to be able to talk with my father once again, man to man, like I did in my younger days before he and she took the journey to that other world.  I feel nearer to them now than I have ever felt in my life.  That is why I do not fear my death.

I want to join those friends and brothers who gave their lives willingly so that our people could live.  The men who fell beneath the might of our enemies, as they laid down their lives to protect our villages, against their murderous onslaught.  To be reunited with these heros of my past would lift my heart high into the sky, for such would be my joy.  Then, in that other world, together we could protect the passing of our people from the dead spirits of our enemies who await to try and conquer us even in death.  Though I know that this would mean that my life here upon my beloved lands would be no more, I would be content to stand guard for the rest of eternity in that world that now awaits my arrival, I take great comfort in the knowledge that I could still serve my people.  That is why I do not fear my death.

I also hope that all my good deeds and charity of spirit in this life will be enough to allow me this wish, bestowed by the Great Spirit on those he deems worthy, which is to come back to this world from time to time in the guise of an eagle so that I might speak with my children's children and their children's children.  So that even in death I might guide the living as they follow the sacred paths of our people.  My heart would be heavy if I were not allowed to visit with them.  But I know in my heart that the Great Spirit will grant me this wish.  That is why I do not fear my death.

I know my loved ones will come together and weep at my passing.  They will tear their garments into rags and cut their hair as a mark of respect.  They will give away all my possessions except for those that I take with me.  My wife will also sacrifice a finger as a sign of her grief.  My sons will then build a scaffold on which my body will be laid.  Then, with my body wrapped within the comforting folds of a buffalo robe, they will carry me to my final resting place upon this earth.  They will also place there with me both my bow and arrows and my shield so that I will not have to venture forth unarmed.  I will then be allowed to lie there within our sacred burial grounds until my bones turn to dust and I am joined with the earth, my Mother, so that I may be taken into her womb where I will be born again.  And through all of this I am comforted by the knowledge that my beloved sons will take care of their mother until she, or they, rises up through the sky and joins me in the Place of Souls where we will all be reunited once again within the sacred hoop of the people.  That is why I do not fear my death.

To know that in my passing I will become the dust of the earth, on which my people will forever walk and live out their lives, fills my heart with untold joy.  For I have, in my own life, often thought about the people of the past whose spirits still live beneath my feet, awaiting their rebirth.  That is why I have always felt a great love for my country.  I have never wanted to leave it for another.  The earth that I have been blessed to have been born upon has often appeared to me, to be both alive and to breathe, like the breath of a child in a deep sleep, reminding me that it is the spirit of my people that makes it appear thus.  Now for me to become a living part of my own country makes my heart soar high in the sky.  That is why I do not fear my death.

And I know that for all those who remain behind the land will become ever closer to their own hearts because of my passing.  They will not allow the spirits of all those who have gone before to be forgotten or their dust to be scattered to the four corners and destroyed.  The place in which we all lay will be a sacred place now and forever more.  The winds that carry our dust all over these lands will also carry the prayers of the living, that will continue to remind us that we will always be as one, living and dead, now and forever connected through the passage of time by the undying belief that we are all true Human Beings.  That is why I do not fear my death.

And for myself?

During my life time I have tried not to take anyone or anything for granted.  I have tried to be generous in both my thoughts and deeds.  Each new sunrise I have looked upon as being my first and each sunset as being my last.  And the spaces in between I have lived life to the full.  I have not wasted one precious moment, or one spoken word, without telling those whom I have loved just how I have felt.  I have tried to teach my sons and daughters the right way to become true Human Beings.  And I am pleased to leave this world in the knowledge that they -- the future, -- are as good and as strong as I -- the past.  I have loved, with a full and open heart, all those that I have called friend.  To my wife I have tried to be a good husband and to my sons and daughters a good father.  I have always wanted to show them all the love that I possess, and if there were times that any of them doubted my love for them, then the fault of this was entirely mine.  My family have always been the reason for my living.  Now that my sons are men and my daughters are mothers I find it easier in my heart to at last say 'goodbye.'  That is why I do not fear my death.

And my grandchildren, what of them?  I have grown younger in heart from the sounds of their laughter washing over me.  They have brought me great happiness in old age.  My love for them is wider than the open spaces across these lands.  I have seen the love in their hearts for me.  I have healed the scratches on their arms and legs and washed away the blood from their falls.  I have tasted the salt of their tears when kissing their pain away.  I have passed on to them the old ways of their grandfather and know in my heart that they will keep them close to their hearts forever.  Their lives have enriched me and have given me great hope for the future of my people.  

That is why I do not fear my death.
-- ©2002, William Purcell
http://www.lakotawritings.com/

Some Thoughts on Heaven

I am afraid now.  I count my breaths, knowing how few are left to me.  But deep underneath the pounding terror is a disbelief that I am bound to die.  I cannot see the way of leaving this world, and cannot imagine the next one. ...

I wonder if there are mountains in heaven.  The preacher talks of the city of God, but even if it is peopled with angels, I don't want to go there.  I am done with walls.  I shall camp in God's wilderness, where it is always summer.  Then I will finally be home.

                  -- Sharon McCrumb, The Ballad of Frankie Silver


The final lesson for the hataalii
"I must do it now," Nakai said.  "And you must listen. The last lesson is the one that matters.  Will you hear me?"

Chee took the old man's hand.

"Know that it is hard for the people to trust outside their own family.  Even harder when they are sick.  They have pain.  They are out of harmony.  They see no beauty anywhere.  All their connections are broken.  That is who you are talking to.  You tell them the Power that made us made all this above us and around us and we are part of the Power and if we do as we are taught we can bring ourselves back into hozho.  Back into harmony.  Then they will again know beauty all around them. ...

"To be restored, they must believe you."
Tony Hillerman
The Hunting Badger, 1999

Throw off the Bow Lines
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover."
Mark Twain
Contributed by Dick Clark
 

 

Fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while.

 
    -- Don Maquis  
 

An Elegy
The sun rises over eastern hills
I look out of my window
At the fresh light of early morning
And am reborn with the new day.

Yesterday is lost except in unfaithful memory
Or emotional price
Each day brings new possibilities
If we can but cease to regret the past.

A prisoner welcomed the dawn
On the day of his execution
His was a rebirth to certain death
No redemption except in dying.

Shall I appear brave he asks
When the end is signalled
Will bravery be my legacy
He was afraid but did not falter
Except in his secret heart.

Every new day is a gift
A chance to be better
To laugh and to love
The gift of life is rich.

Life is precious, uncertain
All we have
And the day it is over
Is the day of our execution

 
PieterVR, ©2002


What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset
  -- Crowfoot, Native American warrior and orator (1821-1890)
    (Contributed by Mac)
 

 

 


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