Sunday, July 6, 2014

* We Live



Anybody 70 or over who says they don’t think about death every day is lying.

Death---the great taboo ---has always fascinated me.  Now that my apprenticeship is nearly complete, I am ready for the real thing.

General DeGaulle did it at 78, while playing solitaire (which some say was also his foreign policy). The headline read: Le General DeGaulle est mort; France est veuve ( General DeGaulle is dead; France is widowed).

Ex-President  Johnson  at 64, puffing cigarettes like a chimney, died one day before President Nixon signed the Viet Nam Peace Treaty. (America did not feel widowed.)

Leopold Stokowski conducted till he was 95, and then went to bed with a cold, a sleep from which he never roused.

Thornton Wilder, the great stagemanager of death, at 78,  rolled over  while taking a nap before he and his sister went out to a dinner party, and that was the end . His sister, my neighbor and friend,  told me, years later,  Thornton drank himself to death.”  I’m not so sure.

All those  deaths were heart attacks --- or stoppages, which ever you prefer --- in a certain  fullness of time (  64 -95 ).

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Princess Diana, both beautiful and reckless, seemed to court death, which they found violently --------before forty.

Long buried in my divinity school notes is this phrase from a famous sermon I can no loner locate (perhaps it was the unpublished version of Eliphalet Nott’s The Sin of Duelling: On the Death of Alexander Hamilton):

The Almighty has ten thousand
ways of removing us from this world.

 That was before planes crashed into Twin Towers, before Hiroshima, before  Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid  ---
so make that 10,003 ways of removal.

And it was before the abolition of the Almighty altogether, replaced by the Great Randomness of Secularism


We live. 
That’s all we know.


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