First there is this from Emily Dickinson:
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.
Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.
We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
And there is this personal postscript:
There is a reason for this poem's appearance on my blog this evening. Since midday, even though I have been posting and commenting on other matters, death has been much on my mind. That is because my wife has been away from home for a while; she is now at her sister's side in an ICU unit in a Mississippi hospital. And, in case you are wondering, the reasons for me being here rather than there are complicated, logistical, and not relevant to this posting. But back to my sister-in-law's condition: the doctors say only that she has mere days or weeks but not months remaining. She cannot stop for Death, but the carriage awaits.
I confess that Death, whenever I have witnessed his carriage carrying others away into eternity, saddens me and leaves me without adequate words.
Moreover, I am frightened about my own impending carriage ride past the gazing grain and setting sun. It is, indeed, a sobering, terrifying prospect.
And, good friends, I believe my time on this earth has been ironic: I have been preparing for and avoiding that carriage ride for as long as I can remember. But I suppose that is almost everyone's ironic predicament.
In any case, Emily Dickinson's poem is a terrifying and reassuring poem. How is that for paradox?
What say you?
My sister in law passed on into Eternity at 3:00 a.m., Saturday morning, 15 July 2017.