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Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

Burglar, banker, father

My father loved the poems of Emily Dickinson; quoted them often, so that those poems are twined in the hearts of his children. One of them was in my mind yesterday.

I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod;
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!

Angels, twice descending,
Reimbursed my store.
Burglar, banker, father,
I am poor once more!

The mother of a close friend of mine died recently, and it was a sad bad time for her. For me too, not that I knew her mother so well, but that she was a part of my life, as the parents of your friends often are.
In the midst of life we are in death.
But in the midst of death we are in life!
Yesterday I got two joyful messages from two friends–both new grandparents, both so happy to welcome this new soul to the world. These two new humans were born on opposite sides of the Atlantic, both are hale and hearty, and both bring such happiness to their families.

Welcome, little ones! And farewell to the woman who had lived on this floating world for so long, almost a hundred years.

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A low blow

I was checking Instagram to see that it had duly displayed my latest photo, and up popped the screen to say that (thanks to brilliant algorithms created at enormous expense by their flock of genius engineers) they have identified fellow Instagrammers whom I might wish to follow.
And there, smiling at me from the screen was the sweet face of my dead husband. Gone long since to where I cannot follow.
Not yet, at least.
How could you do that, Instagram? The whole day dimmed in a moment.

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Misery and Gin

Merle Haggard has died, another icon. My kids grew up with the sound of his plangent voice and witty lyrics: Mom’s music. But they don’t know that I only got to know him thanks to Clint Eastwood. I was never an Eastwood fan, all that shoot-em-up-do-you-feel-LUCKY-punk stuff not my cup of tea, but in 1980 I happened upon his amiable movie, Bronco Billy–watchable enough aside from the appalling Sondra Locke–and I was captivated by the honky tonk bar scene featuring Merle Haggard singing Misery and Gin. This irresistible song of self pity and self blame–“looking at the world through the bottom of a glass, all I see is a man who’s fading fast” –led me to others, and I discovered a whole new world of tough, smart country songs. Yes, yes, some of them are self-serving, vulgar, and silly–and some of them aren’t.
Rest in peace, Merle.
.

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The Death of Nighteyes

In the book I am reading, the world contains different kinds of magic. One of these magics is called the old magic, the beast magic, which joins a particular person and a particular beast–perhaps a woman and a hawk, perhaps a man and a wolf. It is a bond so close, it transcends ordinary companionship. They speak mind to mind, they dream each other’s dreams.
In this story, a young man rescued a wolf cub from a cage, and they formed this bond, and lived through many exciting adventures together. But men live longer than wolves, and today, as I listened to the story, it came to the part where the wolf must die.
I was so moved I could hardly bear it–true, true, stories of death and parting loom particularly dark for me. So there I was on the subway, trying to restrain my grief–sobbing on the train, SO NOT THE THING.

Here is the scene. The man and the wolf are exhausted, sleeping–it has been a terrible battle, but they were successful, and the kingdom is saved. But the wolf was too old for such exertions, and was badly wounded.NightEyes_1 (1)

He stirred first. I nearly woke as he rose, gingerly shook himself, and then stretched more bravely. His superior sense of smell told me that the edge of dawn was in the air. The weak sun had just begun to touch the dew-wet grasses., waking the smells of the earth. Game would be stirring. The hunting would be good.
I’m so tired, I complained. . . Rest a while longer. We’ll hunt later.
You’re tired? I’m so tired that rest won’t ease me. Only the hunt. I felt his wet nose poke my cheek. It was cold. Aren’t you coming? I was sure you’d want to come with me.
I do. I do. But not just yet. Give me just a bit longer.
Very well, little brother. Just a bit longer. Follow me when you will.
. . .But my mind rode with him, as it had so many times. . . swiftly we left the camp behind. . . We walked the spine of the hill, smelling the morning. . . there would be deer in the forested creek bottoms. They would be healthy and strong and fat, a challenge to any pack, let along a single wolf. He would need me at his side to hunt those. He would have to come back for them later. Nevertheless, he halted on the top of the ridge. The morning wind riffled his fur and his ears were perked as he looked down to where we knew they must be.
Good hunting. I’m going now, my brother. He spoke with great determination.
Alone? You can’t bring a buck down alone! I sighed with resignation. Wait, I’ll get up and come with you.
Wait for you? Not Likely! I’ve always had to run ahead of you and show you the way.
Swift as thought, he slipped away from me, running down the hillside like a cloud’s shadow when the wind blows. My connection to him frayed as he went, scattering and floating like dandelion fluff in the wind.
. . . “Wait!” I cried, and in shouting the word, I woke myself. . . my fingers buried deep in his coat. I clutched him to me and my grip sighed his last stilled breath from his lungs. But Nighteyes was gone. Cold rain was cascading down past the mouth of the cave.

From Fool’s Errand, by Robin Hobb

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Our revels now are ended

Lisa Grossman is dead, dear estranged friend of times gone by.
Lisa was so brilliant, so learned, so much fun–a shining star of the Patrick O’Brian list, that joined so many of us together, so many years ago now. The list where I met my darling lost Lawrence, and Allan, and John, and Paisley. My dear friends.
It really smote me, this news.
That paradise is truly dead now, now that Lisa is dead.
You can’t imagine what it was like in those days, to suddenly find a community of souls with whom you had instant sympathy. Always, you had pulled the punches, zipped the lip, maintained the cool. And all of a sudden, here were people who had read what you had read, whose vocabulary equaled–or surpassed!–yours! With whom you could be completely easy. A dream come true. It didn’t last long, humans are imperfect, life intervenes–but how amazing it was while it lasted!
Adieu, Lisa. I will always regret that we parted so badly. Such grand times we had!
We are such stuff as dreams are made on….

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The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag
Was once the beauty Abishag,

The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.

Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.

Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.

Some have relied on what they knew,
Others on being simply true.
What worked for them might work for you.

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

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My friend Simon Hoggart died yesterday, and the world is a lesser place. Long ago, he was part of a merry group of Britons who were posted here in DC, and how they enlivened our social scene! Parties and dinners and jolly times, not to mention, pleasant reunions in later years, when Lawrence and I visited the UK. Simon was a clever and witty man, whose writing entertained a vast audience of souls. I was wondering what to say about him, and then thought of the poem that my father loved and that I quoted for him. Eminently quotable for dear Simon.

They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead;

They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed;

I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I

Had tired the sun with talking, and sent him down the sky.

And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,

A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,

Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;

For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.

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