Poem by JOHN DONNE, 1633
Death Be Not Proud
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
“And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.'”
John Donne’s poem means that after he dies, humans awaken and enter heaven for all of eternity and, in that way, conquer death.
Whether one believes that is a matter of religious faith. Even for those not religiously inclined, when we pass away, we leave a part of ourselves as the contributions we made in life, big or small. We know it is excruciating to suffer the loss of loved ones, whether family or friends. As we age, those losses are worse.
Yesterday, a very beloved friend of mine called to let me know her father passed away after a long and tragic struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. His death meant that both her parents were deceased. Her parents were also very close friends of ours.
After her phone call, I experienced profound grief when I suddenly realized with a new and deeper awareness that most people from my past were gone. I am 80 years old and am keenly aware that loss is part of the life cycle. That awareness does not make it any easier.
Among the many losses I’ve suffered during my life was the death of my wife of 50 years. She was 71 and wanted to watch her grandchild grow up. The fact is that watching close friends and family pass away leaves a sense of internal emptiness.
To everyone, embrace life.