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When Death Comes

Although the title sounds eerie, Mary Oliver‘s poem is about how we can live life. To live a life as fully as she describes, we can seek to be mindful and attentive to each moment as we live through it.d

Several years ago, Kathy and I drove out to pick up her mother who had a form of non-verbal dementia. It was about 5:30 AM and the sun was just peeking up over the horizon as we drove into it on the way home. As I drove, I felt a movement beside me and turned to see my mother-in-law smiling and pointing at the fields with freshly cut hay laying on the fields. Even thought she did not speak, the moment somehow spoke to her as it reminded her of days on the farm during haying season.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. That experienced reminded me of what I might otherwise take-for-granted: a beautiful morning in the company of others.

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 measles-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 is 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.

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About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and spent the last 14 years teaching in an incrediable hybrid school setting. My dissertation topic and research were how teachers experience becoming who teachers, as human subjects. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation that allows me to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what will call me. We have begun a small consulting and leadership firm called Rocky River Leadership & Consulting Ltd.

19 responses »

  1. Wonderful- I love her

    Reply
  2. Maybe it’s just me but when my son, then my three nephews and then my husband died, I didn’t have any of those feelings.

    Reply
  3. I see her broad concept of what life is and that she had an interest in it all with the intention of living it to the fullest of her capability. Bravo! If only we could each say the same.

    Reply
  4. This Sir, is beautiful. I appreciate you taking of your time to post this, I very much enjoyed the read. I am going to reblog this one for you. I hope you have a great weekend, God’s blessing to you and to your loved ones.

    Reply
  5. Beautiful quotes, Ivon. My aunt was suffering from dementia and she passed away in December last year. And I know how precious that moment was with your mother-in-law.
    ∩(︶▽︶)∩

    Reply
  6. What a great way to look at death – just stepping into another word and having visited this world with wonder. My mom also had the non-verbal dementia, but when a child would come to visit, her face would break into a smile. Those are moments to remember.

    Reply
    • My mother-in-law was usually a happy person even after dementia took hold. The nursing staff would comment on smile. She always smiled when her children came to visit, but looked confused when I visited. It was as if she should know me, but couldn’t quite place me.

      Reply
  7. Such a lovely reminder of the preciousness of life, Ivon. I really like Mary’s poem so very much, thank you for today’s enlightenment.

    Reply

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