John Donne, Ernest Hemingway, or Metallica?
John Donne, a Catholic poet (late 1500s), concluded a poem with the same title above with “Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee. Besides this famous poem, his last sermon was called “Deaths Duel,” pictured above.
Hemingway uses this title for the story of Robert Jordan, an idealist demolitions expert who fought as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway’s father took his own life to allegedly escape a painful uncontrolled battle with diabetes. Hemingway himself accidentally shot himself with a shotgun one early morning. Most call it a suicide. By the way, the Catholic Poet above once wrote a piece defending suicide.
“Take a look in the sky just before you die, It is the last time you will, Blackened roar massive roar fills the crumbling sky, Shattered goal fills his soul.” Metalica music has to be heard, not explained: https://youtu.be/S93yQjQyVko. This rendition is with the San Francisco Symphony.
Death I am afraid of is all around us before we recognize we are on our own deathbed. It is alluded to in poetry, literature, music, and all of the arts. The obituary pages hold on even today despite declining ads and sales in the Newspaper industry. It frames our lives and gives value to our every passing moment.
I took a walk outside my house last night and glanced at a supermoon. My son had mentioned it earlier in the evening via phone as something to take in during this quarantine. Metalica’s song was on my mind. Thankfully, it was not my last viewing of the evening sky.
The peak rush is hitting my area now of people preparing to leave this earth unexpectedly. Emotions are raw and numb at the same time. Towns are ghostly. People are isolated. The Bell is Tolling for all of us, if not today, then tomorrow.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
I am not ready to say those words. I believe in God, but I do not have any grounding in the multitude of scriptural references that describe life after death. The mystery is despite the New Testament promises and the allure of other sacred text and many vivid depictions, still great.
It is natural to cling to the known and what we have when faced with the possibility of it all ending momentarily. When confronted with the potentiality of death, I, at least, conceptualize it all ending. That is a grave mistake! The demise of my flesh is imminent, but all those around me and the activities that surround me will continue on. And my faith captures it as a new beginning, with God’s grace, someplace other than Dante’s Inferno. And if I do not die, there is still this, the people I love or have loved have been killed or will die regardless. Loss awaits us all without an itinerary.
There is no escaping death. We must turn and face it together with the poets, the authors, musicians, and any others who give meaning to life by defining end.
It is common and unceasing, and yet each one of us that crosses that threshold is unique and essential in a way we all will never understand while we remain behind.
How do we face it? Know it is coming and value today. Do not dwell in the past or in the future. Celebrate the life of those around you while they are here to enjoy your company and laughter. Care for the poor and the sick. Eat, live, and pray. Say meaningless cliches! Let others anger roll off you and help them carry the weights that cause their rage and sorrow. We share everyone’s losses, tragedies, and suffering.
Let no trivial matter on your mind occupy space it does not deserve. Give appropriate weight to meaningful things. Act with intention and without delay, yet without the rush. Destiny is here. Right now. Cherish it even with its struggles.
If someone you know is going off to the hospital to fight for their lives, make sure to say your piece before they go. Not everyone gets to come home. And while we all wait at home for this to pass, if we are so lucky to do so, let us make amends and care for each other, as if tomorrow is not guaranteed. Perhaps words need not be exchanged, just little gestures or actions.