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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Letter from Publisher: When Death Comes

Dec 01, 2020 09:30AM ● By Paul Chen
In a span of 10 days, I have experienced the deaths of two.

And in between, there sure seemed to be a feeling of death everywhere in this great land.

As of this writing, I am just two days removed from having to assist the transition of our dear cat, Slider. He was 19 years old; death was long in sight as his poor body deteriorated before our eyes.

On Halloween night, my family was shocked to learn that one of my younger cousins, age 54, died from a heart attack.

In between these two deaths, America voted. It seems as if both sides experienced loss akin to death.

So, death has been on my mind.

But death, whether for a living being or to a moment in time, is never final, although it might seem that way. Accompanying every death is a birth.

While the following wonderful poem by Mary Oliver does not necessarily communicate this particular take on death, it is a positive take. And as we bid good riddance to a most difficult year, and welcome 2021 with an enormous third wave of coronavirus in the dark of winter, it is a good time to contemplate how we choose to live our lives.

For, as the saying goes, every day is the first day of the rest of our lives. And, as Mary Oliver asks in her poem, “The Summer Day,” with what is likely her most memorable words:

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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.
– Mary Oliver

✧ ✧ ✧ ✧ ✧ ✧ ✧ 

Paul Chen has been owner/publisher of Natural Awakenings Atlanta franchise since January 2017. He is a practicing Buddhist and a founding member of East Lake Commons, a cohousing community.

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