The end of life...and what comes after...
Sun-kissed leaves of every color
Shading trees that gave them birth,
One by one, fall in the autumn
feeding hungry, waiting earth.
Feed the earth that feeds the forest
Which in spring is green again.
Living proof of resurrection,
That to die is not in vain.
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust.
Remember me with smiles and laughter,
For that's the way I'll remember you all.
If you can only remember me with tears,
Then don't remember me at all.
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 sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there.
I did not die.
Note: My grandmother, Ruth, once met a girl who was dying of cancer. She had been battling the disease since she was nine years old. When she died, at the age of 21, my grandmother sent the girl's mother the following poem. Her mother took the poem to church and had the minister read it aloud to the congregation.
"I'll lend you, for a time,
a child of mine," He said,
To love the while she lives,
and mourn when she is dead.
It may be six or seven years,
or twenty-two or three.
But will you till I call for her,
take care of her for me?
She'll bring her love to gladden you
and should her stay be brief,
You'll have her lovely memories
as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise she will stay,
since all from earth return.
But there are lessons taught down there
I want this child to learn.
I've looked the wide world over
in my search for teacher true,
And from the throngs that crowd life's lane
I have selected you.
Now, will you give her all your love
nor feel the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I call to
take her home again?"
I fancied then I heard them say,
"Dear Lord, Thy will be done.
For the happiness this child will bring,
the risk of grief we'll run.
We'll shelter her with tenderness
and love her while we may,
And, for the happiness she brings,
forever grateful stay.
And shall the angels come for her ~
much sooner than we planned,
We'll face the bitter grief that comes,
and try to understand."
~Edgar A. Guest
I do not think that I can stay with God,
Although His heaven is bright, and angels sing;
When frail, sweet grasses creeping from the sod
Have told the waiting world that it is spring!
I do not think that all the lovliness
of that far land can hold me in its thrall
When lilacs bloom, and waking orchids bless
The ways of earth, and fragrant breezes call!
Ah, then my feet will carry me, a spirit,
Along the little paths that we have known:
My laughter will creep out, and you will hear it,
And wonder at the wind's bright calling tone.
And you will join its mirth and never guess
That I am in its sudden brief caress!
~Margaret E. Singster
THE DREAM, THE DREAM, ALWAYS THE DREAM
My grandmother died hungry. For years, that bothered me, but, now that I'm older, I'm glad. The case, you see, was not an extreme one. She was 90, in a nursing home, basically healthy and alert but unable to live alone. According to the report we later heard, it was dinner time, and the nurse brought in Grandma Nettie's tray.
"I was wondering when you'd get here. My, I'm hungry," Grandma said.
"Well then, you'll really like this. Dinner's especially good today. There now, I'll just leave you here to enjoy it. I'll be back in a bit."
And when she came back in a bit, there was Grandma, dozing in the chair, the food untasted. Only she wasn't dozing. She was dead. And the untasted food upset me. Why couldn't she have been allowed a half hour more in which to enjoy her last meal? Why did she have to die hungry? It wasn't fair.
Now, years later, I've reversed myself. I think we should all die hungry ~ hungry for something, looking forward to something, anticipating.
Much of life's energy comes from anticipation ~ and much of its satisfaction, too. The realization is sometimes anticlimactic, disappointing, though at times, of course, it is even better than we'd dreamed. But even then it doesn't hold quite the same flavor as the preliminary expectation.
As we age and settle, and life becomes patterned, there are fewer new experiences to dream of, wonder about, look forward to. So "little" things take on importance ~ changes in the daily routine, or, as in Grandma Nettie's case, high spots in the day.
I think of my dear friend Loretta's father, who, the night before he died, went to bed knowing his daughter would be there the next day to take him to the beach ~ a place filled with memories of family outings. He could look both forward and back with pleasure; remembering, anticipating.
Everyone should die that way ~ a little hungry, with something to look forward to.
~Dorothy Jarman Stone
I'd rather be ashes than dust. I would rather have my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in one magnificent glow, than a sleepy and perserverant planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.
A woman named Nancy was an invited guest at the burial of a goldfish owned by her 5-year-old neighbor, Jimmy. Since Jimmy did not yet know how to write, he asked Nancy to do the honors for him, on a small marker he had brought with him to the ceremony. "What do you want to say?" she asked. "His name," Jimmy replied, "was Mobert." Dutifully, Nancy inscribed the name. "Do you want anything else?" she asked. Jimmy thought for a moment, then nodded. "Put down," he said,
"'He Was Fun While He Lasted.'"
And may that be said of us all...