Saturday, June 13, 2009

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The Dirkson Senate Office Building, reflected of course

I believe the Buddhists when they say life is a precious existence. I feel that truth in my blood and bones. That said, though, I'm not one of those people who wishes for immortality. I don't even particularly aspire to a super long lifetime. I'd like to live and die like my friend Gordon - live full throttle, then drop out of this body quickly, maybe even with ease.

There is so much emphasis in this culture (and in many - most?) cultures on living a long life, as long as possible. Why? Medical technology has made it possible to keep people alive long past the time when they would have died otherwise, at great expense and usually by way of a lot of suffering. Sometimes that is such a blessing. Sometimes not so much.

What's wrong with being my actual age (56)? What's wrong with looking my actual age? What's wrong with feeling OK about dying when my time is up, even if some people believe it's "too early?" Does my acceptance of my age, appearance and my curiosity about passing through the veil, when that time comes, does that mean I'm complacent about this precious existence? Not at all!

Instead of going on and on about this, I'll turn the rest of the post over to Mary Oliver. She says it perfectly, as always. Happy weekend, y'all.


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 measle-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's 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.

--Mary Oliver


Anonymous said...

Hi Reya! That poem does say it all, thanks for sharing it. Just wanted to say that I've felt odd since the full moon too...I hope I don't have to wait for the next one to get back on track...anyway, have a great weekend too!

mum said...

believe it or not, word verification is: crona. Works both for crones (me) and cronos (time), yes?
Great poem and I share your sentiment about living and dying. I've just come back from a social event where I was surrounded by the very aged, many of them no longer communicative. It says a lot about the wonders of medical science, but I'm not sure what it says about the priorities to which we apply them.

Have an excellent weekend, Reya.

steven said...

a really insightful poem reya. it's funny. i was thinking out loud about your friend gordon this morning. i was thinking that i too would wish to continue living as i do and then fly away without any commotion. my dad, a buddhist, managed that and even though i miss who he was while he was here, i'm happy for him. steven

Tom said...

What you say is true...
family ties, too many obligations, unfinished business.. these hold people to this earth...i think living simply is the happier way to live and die. Good weekend to you!

John Hayes said...

What a moving poem-- good thoughts both from you & Mary Oliver this morning.

Lover of Life said...

I absolutely could not agree with you more! The thought of trying to hang on way beyond when I should be gone, is just not appealing to me. Nor is not being allowed to age and be an old woman, free of surgery, botox, and any other procedures that are more terrifying to me than aging.

The Bug said...

This is my second brush with death today - the first was another favorite blog, A Tidings of Magpies. She had a poem by Billy Collins - Obituaries. (You can get to the blog through my profile) Good stuff!

P.S. my word verification is recon - is that what life is? Just checking things out for the next world?

Elizabeth said...

"I was a bride married to amazement"

Yes, yes, much,much too much time, energy and money spent on hideous fights against the ravages of time...........
let us go gentle......
Mary Oliver stuns as ever.

Elizabeth said...

Had to put SOMETHING in the comment box
since the word verification is :
happy weekend

Lynne said...

How true, Reya.

Dani said...

Wow- great poem.

I don't think there is anything wrong for feeling and looking your age -whatever it may be- as long as you are content and accepting of it.

I too hope that I have no regrets at my dying moment. Sometimes it takes a friend or family member's death to remind us how short and precious life is and to not waste a moment.

Kerry said...

Love this poem! Thanks Reya.

Ralph Suarez said...

Life is beautiful Reya.

Joanne said...

Love music, particularly live. And so my favorite line brings music into the idea here - "tending, as all music does, towards silence." Beautiful.

willow said...

"I was a bride married to amazement." I love that.

The Pasternak quote on my side bar includes "Creation's tears in shoulder blades". Interesting that Oliver uses an iceberg.

Reya Mellicker said...

Bug - Wow. Must be in the air.

Willow I love your Pasternak quote - I read it every time I visit your site.

And as for the word verification - it is so bizarrely in tune, isn't it?

Meri said...

I am moved by Mary Oliver's words to say "Amen." So be it. And my verification word is ACIOUT -- which if read semi-phonetically might be "I see out."
I do see out beyond the ordinary.

René Wing said...

I think your acceptance of your mortality says that you have lived well. To paraphrase Oliver's beautiful poem, you are not arguing with your life. What a blessing!

Farewell to your friend.

Washington Cube said...

I was trying to find a speech by Dirksen, since there were times he came across like Foghorn Leghorn..I sah suh.

I think sometimes it's described as sonorous.

Something creepy about him and Johnson on the telephone and it's being recorded.

Merle Sneed said...

Reya, your beauty is timeless and transcends age.

Anonymous said...


Mary Oliver: too sweet. I saw her at a reading years ago. Her poems are constructed so precisely. I've always been jealous of that.

We should be able to go when our bodies tell us that it's time and leave life to the living.

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

A poem to live by. Mike dropped out of his body 6 days after my birthday, 8 days after Valentines
Day, and I feel better knowing he went "in love" and to me I feel lucky and yes, that it was a blessing, and will always remember that last week as lived to the fullest!