Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Fear of Death

Emily Brontë – Start not….

Death is on my mind. Especially since I’m in the last chapter of my life—however long or short it may be. The photo above shows the Haworth churchyard as it may have looked in Emily B’s time. Note the flat-stone grave markers, like beds. My comments follow Emily’s poem and a second photo.

Start not upon the minster wall
Sunshine is shed in holy calm
And lonely though my footsteps fall
The saints shall shelter thee from harm

Shrink not if it be summer noon
This shadow should right welcome be
These stairs are steep but landed soon
We’ll rest us long and quietly

What though our path be o’er the dead
They slumber soundly in the tomb
And why should mortals fear to tread
The pathway to their future home?

Emily Brontë, from Brontë Poems, p. 33
Published by Alfred A. Knopf 1996
© 1996 by David Campbell Publishers Ltd.

Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818, and died on 19 December 1848, one month after her younger brother Bramwell’s death. She lived most of her adult life in Haworth, Yorkshire, where her father was the parson. The photo above shows the main street in the 1800s. The parsonage and churchyard were near the top of the steep climb uphill. The major things missing from the photo are horses, garbage of all kinds flowing downhill, and the stench.

When I read this poem, I imagine Emily B walking up the steep hill beside me, coaching and encouraging me.

First Stanza
Don’t flinch or turn aside! Don’t be startled when you ‘come upon’ the path leading to the churchyard wall, looming at the end. Don’t swerve with dread, like horses in the heat of battle. Stay calm. Trust you’re in the best of hands. It will warm and brighten your way.

Yes, it’s uncanny and even frightening to hear your own footsteps on the stony path up this particular hill. Just remember all the saints who went this way before you. You can’t see them, but they’re cheering you on, encouraging you to stay the course instead of breaking away as though you could escape harm, pain or death.

Second Stanza
Yes, the noonday sun is blazing hot right now. Don’t try to hide from it. Look up ahead! There’s a shadow that will welcome you sooner, not later. It probably feels steeper now than it did at the beginning. It’s normal to be weary of the uphill grind. Still, your goal is just ahead. It won’t be long now. Then we can rest for a long time in utter quiet.

Third Stanza
It doesn’t matter that this path might have us walking on resting places of the dead. They’re already sleeping soundly beneath the ground in the churchyard. Besides….

…why should mortals fear to tread
The pathway to their future home?

Something like that, I think.

Thanks for visiting and reading, even though the topic isn’t everyone’s favorite.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 September 2018
Photos found at kleurrijkbrontesisters.blogspot.com

Contempt wears many faces | A Dream, Part 5 of 5

Dawn's Place circle of friends making paper flowers february 2014

~~Unchained Women! Unrecognized, under-rated power to change the subject

I’m on a public street. I’ve just witnessed brutality against two young women, not in real time but in my dream. Now, out of my dream, what to do next? I pull out my cell phone and call 911. Will anyone respond? This isn’t an upscale area.

I kneel beside the sobbing woman Read the rest of this entry »

“Yestereve, Death came. . .”

With others, my mind and heart have been caught up in recent events that involved unscheduled, sudden death for many human beings. I’ve been thinking about this post and decided to feature it today–for all of us mortals who can be certain of one thing: Death is our common lot. Are we ready? Is God ready? Am I?

Telling the Truth

This week I’ve been thinking about death, including my own.  My mother and one of my three sisters, Diane, died in February.  Mom died in 1999 from complications following a stroke.  Diane died in 2006 after living with ALS for ten years.  Both were polio survivors of a 1949 polio epidemic.  Their death anniversaries are within a few days of each other.

When George MacDonald wrote the two sonnet-prayers below, he had death on his mind.  His coming death–whenever that might be.  He had already lost four of his eleven children to death.  My comments are at the end.

January 27 and 28

Yestereve, Death came, and knocked at my thin door.
I from my window looked: the thing I saw,
The shape uncouth, I had not seen before.
I was disturbed—with fear, in sooth, not awe;
Whereof ashamed, I instantly did rouse
My will to seek thee–only to fear the more:
Alas!  I could not find thee…

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“Yestereve, Death came. . .”

This week I’ve been thinking about death, including my own.  My mother and one of my three sisters, Diane, died in February.  Mom died in 1999 from complications following a stroke.  Diane died in 2006 after living with ALS for ten years.  Both were polio survivors of a 1949 polio epidemic.  Their death anniversaries are within a few days of each other.

When George MacDonald wrote the two sonnet-prayers below, he had death on his mind.  His coming death–whenever that might be.  He had already lost four of his eleven children to death.  My comments are at the end.

January 27 and 28

Yestereve, Death came, and knocked at my thin door.
I from my window looked: the thing I saw,
The shape uncouth, I had not seen before.
I was disturbed—with fear, in sooth, not awe;
Whereof ashamed, I instantly did rouse
My will to seek thee–only to fear the more:
Alas!  I could not find thee in the house.

I was like Peter when he began to sink.
To thee a new prayer therefore I have got—
That, when Death comes in earnest to my door,
Thou wouldst thyself go, when the latch doth clink,
And lead Death to my room, up to my cot;
Then hold thy child’s hand, hold and leave him not,
Till Death has done with him for evermore.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul,
© 1994 Augsburg Fortress Press

The first stanza has a slightly nightmarish quality.  MacDonald addresses God.  He describes what happened the night before, how he responded, and how distressed he became when he couldn’t find God in his house.  Perhaps his ‘house’ refers to himself?  In any case, MacDonald names his greatest fear:  that God won’t be present at his death.  Perhaps God abandoned him or forgot him?  Or decided not to come?  He doesn’t say.

In the second sonnet he’s thinking about Jesus’ disciple Peter and his bold decision to walk on water—before beginning to sink.  MacDonald decides to pray a new prayer, and wants to be certain God hears it.  His voice is now direct, bold and concrete.  He knows exactly what he wants God to do!  In fact, it seems that in the act of praying his new prayer he finds his voice, his identity and his courage to name and face the enemy.

I’m struck by how conversational MacDonald’s prayers are.  They’re sometimes childlike, despite his great learning and vast vocabulary.   Almost effortlessly, he weaves formal and informal prayer into his daily thought-life.  Finally, I love his ‘new prayer.’  I can imagine praying it, or something like it, for myself.  I was going to say “praying it someday,” but that might be foolish.  Like MacDonald, I know death is coming but I don’t know when.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 February 2015

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