"Oh, death, where art thy victory?" a great philosopher once challenged from his deathbed. I have listened with great interest over the years from people that have faced death and people that have lost loved ones.
An uncle, after a few beers, would tell me stories about the war. Battle worn and weary, as I reflect back, thoughts of combat haunted him daily. He mentioned the fallen enemy, the expressions on their face. A wallet he had found next to one reflected on happier times, with a picture of a wife and little girl. When he was heavy unto the booze, he spoke about buddies. He was too tough to cry, at least in front of his nephew but sudden trips to the refrigerator to get another cool one were timed right at story's end, perhaps to wipe a tear.
My dad used the expression often "everybody wants to get to Heaven but nobody wants to die." A light, almost amusing phrase, yet very true.
He is such an eggshell, so fragile. The youth think they shall live forever and the older people are thankful for one more day.
How many of us have been to the funeral of a friend or relative and listened to the conversations? You will hear countless resolutions, both spiritual and medical. We are all going to turn over a new leaf, the new us, for we shall be prepared.
The resolutions, however sincere, soon fall by the way. Materialistic needs and desires soon control us as before.
I remember as a kid, serving a funeral Mass with Father Terrance.
A child had been killed in an accident. Just three years old. The old southern cemetery had always held a mystique with me as a young man. The statues and stories amidst the the moss covered oaks and magnolias were a silent altar standing on a spot of earth, set apart from the daily pace of everyday life. Still, it was that reminder that everything is temporaty.
The summer sun was scorching.
The acorns and twigs beneath the hearse's tires made crunching sounds, and then service was over, the mother stayed. Father Terrance and I waited.
At school the next day, my thoughts wandered. The teacher's voice was far away. I jotted lines from somewhere, perhaps from yesterday; perhaps from the winds of time that have witnessed all.
Lines that did not need to be written, for they are indelibly etched in my mind.
Cold granite brushes her damp warm cheek
Arms outstretched, reaching
Silent screams toward the heavens
The willows stand still
Oaks, giant sentinels guarding
Her eyes are dry
Only silent paid
A crow's blasphemous cry
A hot summer sky tortures
And the angels scream