"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

28 January 2008

"Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light"

For June, my mother-in-law, whom I loved
28 November 1930 - 27 January 2008

Our students often wonder why so much literature is "dark and depressing." Among other reasons is that Death is the one universal, the one mystery that will happen to us all. Philip Larkin was right to fear Death, if for the wrong reason: Death does not bring annihilation, as he believed, but a more fearful prospect yet -- judgment. Emily Dickinson likened Death to a gentleman suitor, and, while I love the poem, I find it too kindly. The Christian has hope, it's true, and need not fear Death, but Death is not natural or kindly; it is a result of sin having been introduced into the world. I'm far more sympathetic to Dylan Thomas's urging: "Do not go gentle into that good night; / Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

She didn't rage, but she didn't go gentle, either: she lived in the face of the inevitable, inexorable, and agonizing Death pursuing her. Less than a month ago we sat on her back porch sorting through pictures and listening to stories of her younger days. She emailed us a few times after that, and called her younger son one last time to say the final good-bye early last week. I received a letter from her last week, too, a letter I had no chance to answer, in which she asked about syntax that she questioned in an article she'd read. Loving, learning, living.

She lived every moment of her life, and she gave us love and laughter and beauty and wisdom until the very last. And so I rage for her against the dying of the light, the sin that gives Death power over us all, the devastating brokenness of this world. I know the promises and I believe them. But we were not created to be torn away from each other through Death -- who, yes, will die, and the sooner the better.

Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus.

1 comment:

predictablepoet said...

Thank you.
Her name is honored beautifully here.