When Death Comes | Mary Oliver
Death is on my mind. Not just because we’re in the season of Lent, but because it’s impossible to escape death. Here’s Mary Oliver’s take on death. My brief comments follow.
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
© 1992 by Mary Oliver, published by Beacon Press
From New and Selected Poems, Volume One (pub. 1992), pp. 10-11
It’s impossible to get through Lent without pondering death. Not just the death of Jesus of Nazareth, but my own death. How do I prepare to die?
Writing about death helps. So does revisiting deaths of family members and friends. Also, acknowledging holes in my life that will never be filled. And my own fear of dying before I think I’m ready.
So what does it mean to live each day as potentially my last day on this earth? Mary suggests I pay attention to the now of this world. Become more than a visitor. Become amazed at this world and its inhabitants. Especially those flowers of the field that have put up with the likes of us from the very beginning.
As for going through what Mary calls the “the door” of death, yes, I’m curious. Though not as curious as Mary. Still, the focus is today, the only way to prepare for tomorrow.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 February 2021
Image found at wwwreligionlac.net