Thursday, February 26, 2009

death be not proud

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

My first introduction to this poem by John Donne was during the play "Wit" which I have seen twice, in Seattle and in New York.  An excellent play by the way, I still recall the character and her struggle with accepting the diagnosis of terminal ovarian cancer.  It was during the play that Vivian Bearing (the main character) refers to John Donne's sonnet, commonly known as "Death Be Not Proud."

Donne eloquently speaks to the hope that we have in the knowledge that death has no hold over us, death has no right to claim anything for it is but "one short sleep" and then we experience eternal life. Despite the fact that many people give death might and power it is but a mere slave, controlled by disease, accident, war, murder, and luck.  In fact, death is the only thing that dies, for once a person dies their soul lives on.

Until recently I had never been confronted with death personally.  However that changed when on November 29th, 2008 we received a call that my granddad had passed away.  He was 83 when he succumbed to his last sleep before living his life eternal.  He was a man loved and still loved by so many.  He was a man who exemplifed the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, his love was patient and kind, not envious nor proud, he kept no records of wrongs, delighted in truth.  He loved his family.  He loved his friends.  He was a son, a brother, a sailor, an engingeer, a husband, a father, a friend, a grandfather, MY grandfather.  He was the man whose lap I would crawl into.  He was the man who brought me belgian buns any and every time I stayed.  He was the man who I made cakes for.  He was the man who was quick to smile, quick to laugh, and quick to love.  I miss him.  I miss knowing that he is with my nan in England.  I miss knowing that the next time my grandparents come to America, it won't be a plural visitation.  I miss him dearly.  I see his face every time I come onto the computer, the photo at the bottom of this post greets me every time my computer boots up as it is my computer wallpaper. 

I don't think of death too much, not in a sense of missing from earth.  I've been known to hypothetically plan the memorial services of those close to me (specifically those of my parents...long before the passing of Granddad, and early on when they moved to Rocklin and I remained in San Jose).  I've yet to plan out my hubby's memorial service, I just don't know enough French to do so, and it wouldn't be his memorial service if there wasn't French involved!!!  But besides this perhaps strangely morbid habit, I don't tend to dwell on death.  Even now having been personally confronted with death, I don't tend to dwell on it.  Why give death that power, why give death that right?  I would much rather celebrate the life of those that are but sleeping their final sleep before living the life that never ends.

Today marks nine years since Guillaume's mum passed on to life in the fullest.  I did not have the privilege of meeting her, but I am thankful for who she was on a consistent basis.  I realize from the snippets of stories people have shared that she was a woman who loved her family dearly, she loved God and embraced the gift of His Son, Jesus.  She was intelligent and worked diligently at her role as a pharmicist in France.  Along with her husband, Guillaume's dad, she started, ran, and managed a pharmacy in Strasbourg.  Whenever I visit France I see her influence in the lives of those that knew her.  I see it in the team of workers at the pharmacy, their love and respect for both Guillaume's mum and dad.  I see it in the way Guillaume's dad's new wife lovingly embraces the family, a legacy I believe his mum - Christiane left.  I see it in the eyes of G's aunt and uncle, and how their eyes well with tears at how much they miss her still.  I see it in Bernard, G's dad, in how he treats Guillaume, in how he speaks of Christiane, or more appropriately doesn't speak of her.  But most of all I experience the woman Christiane was, in the love that Guillaume shows me.  I experience the legacy of his mother in how Guillaume loves God, has embraced the gift of His Son, Jesus, how he works hard and diligently, how he has a love for people and cooking, and a love for life. 

I know one day that I will have the opportunity to meet this wonderful woman and that one day I will be reunited with my Granddad, because I know that death has no power.  The words of John Donne's poem are true because of Jesus Christ's victory, his victory over death, and that by accepting and embracing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we all can know that death has no power, and no might, and that we live on eternally in the arms of God.

If you're reading this and don't know the ultimate joy that comes in knowing that death is but a doorway to eternal life, I urge you to ask questions, to discover who Jesus was, is and will always be, to find the Truth.  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

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