Updated August 28, 2022 I had initially published this article in April of 2011 but discovered in 2022 that the site by John Jensen* was no longer available. It categorized many hidden canals and ports in North America, shifting our view from what we think we know...
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
~ John Donne
Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 70th birthday. And while I can celebrate the 10th of October, I still have a tendency to grieve a bit. Today would have been my grandmother’s 114 birthday (if my math is correct). I celebrate and grieve as well.
On top of these milestones, one of my close friend’s step-father passed away, bringing all these dates and events into the forefront of my mind and heart.
John Donne’s quote has always struck a chord with me and every time I hear of someone’s passing, be it close or far, I do take a moment and try to reflect on what they meant to others and how they were perceived by others.
Did They Have Passion?
I heard a quote that the ancient Greeks asked when a person passed away that I found interesting, and that was “Did they have passion?” While this quote was said in the movie, Serendipity, I did research and found that it was generally true. “Did they have passion” for something in their life. It didn’t matter what. But it was important they didn’t squander their lives.
People die every day. It’s part of our existence. And, generally, it’s only as we grow older we notice it more often. While one movie villain says, “Time is a fire in which we all burn,” the hero responds, “Time is a friend who travels with us on our journey in life.” I believe our journey shapes our views and beliefs on death.
The Prophet: on Death
When my mother passed away in 1997, and I’m sure I’ve written this elsewhere, I read a passage from one of her favorite books titled The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran. The passage was the prophet speaking to the masses about “Death.” It was chosen because of the last line which had special meaning for my mother. It seems growing up that a teacher had once told her she didn’t have talent in a certain area and shouldn’t try. You’ll see what that talent was by reading the last line.
Today, I took some time and recreated my “Illumination” digital painting and added the last few paragraphs from the passage. I’ll also post the entire passage below.
So, live each day as if it’s your last. Focus on making each day filled with more of the things you’re passionate about. And remember tell those around you how much you really love them.
The Prophet: On Death
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day
cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he
stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the sheered not joyful beneath his trembling,
that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides,
that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet