A Place to Stand

I have been a member of North Carolina Yearly Meeting conservative for over twenty years. I am currently the clerk of our small Monthly Meeting. I am a recorded elder and presently serve as the Recording Clerk of our Yearly Meeting's Ministers, Elders and Overseers. My name has been put forward to be the next clerk of North Carolina Yearly Meeting Conservative. By trade I am a philosophy professor.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Death and Thanksgiving

I really used to enjoy the bustle of preparation for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. I like to cook and so don’t feel that it is a burden and my wife, who cooks most of the time, is generally quite content to let me take over on the big eating holiday. My feelings about Thanksgiving changed a few years back when James, a stray cat we took in, took sick about a week before Thanksgiving, growing progressively weaker for days. He took up residence in my son’s bedroom right off the kitchen and I would go in and check on James periodically while I prepared the food. He died quietly with a little shudder just before I got ready to pack everything up and take it over to my mother-in-law’s house where the clan would gather for the feast. Needless to say, I didn’t feel particularly thankful that afternoon and the memory has come back every following year.

Thoughts of death are stronger this year. Three of our neighbors died this year, the most recently just last week. I had worked with her husband for years before his retirement and would visit with them intermittently during Karen’s final illness. Karen seemed to be angry about dying. To me it seemed that she felt she had much more to do and see and feel. She was an English professor and did not “go gentle into that good night.” Dylan Thomas would have been pleased, but it made me reflect on the some of the very weighty Friends I have known who have lived their whole lives among conservative Friends who do indeed go gentle into that good night. I have seen a sense of peace, acceptance and indeed of thanksgiving among elderly Friends who know that their time has come upon them. Though they don’t talk about death—as a rule it seems Quakers don’t speak of death--I could sense that they felt close to the Spirit and felt themselves passing imperceptibly into another world. It wasn’t that they firmly believed in some doctrine of the resurrection, but rather that they felt they had lived their life partly in this world and partly in the other one and were now disappearing into the kingdom of heaven. There was no need to cite Bible verses or to make any loud show of their faith. The reality of the spiritual world was as commonplace to them as this world is to most of us.

Despite my preoccupation with death lately I think I will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving again this year. I'm thinking of death but I’m not ready to die. In fact I would say that now in my midfifties I appreciate life more than I ever have in the past. The feeling of being driven to “accomplish something” has largely vanished from my psychology. Mediocrity no longer feels like failure. Doing the little that I can do, and that is indeed very little, finally feels like enough. So I find myself wishing that God would just grant me fifty more years of life just as it is right now. But I know that that cannot be. The last of my children will move out and make a life of their own. Old age will not leave my body or my mind intact. But for now I am alive and very well. So I do feel thankful. I am thankful to be alive and that feeling is enhanced by the knowledge that it cannot last. What is to become of me while I remain is unclear and still less is it clear what will become of me when I too have to leave. But, Dylan Thomas to the contrary, I hope that I pass gently into that sweet night.

9 Comments:

Blogger Elma said...

Eu também sou grata por ser um ser vivo, fico grata em ter lido um pouco do seu blog.Muito bom.Parabéns, estarei visitando por + vezes...

11:12 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Thank you for this.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Bathurst said...

I have the best Daddy. The best.

8:33 AM  
Blogger RichardM said...

elma,

Agradeça-o e eu espero que você visita freqüentemente.

Michael,

Glad you liked it.

Daughter,

"There could never be a father loved his daughter more than I love you" Paul Simon

8:47 AM  
Anonymous quietpaths said...

This is a beautiful witness, Richard. I always enjoy reading your words.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Laurie Kruczek said...

If only we could all be so accepting of the death before us, as the elderly Conservative Quakers you have known. I've never known anyone who accepted death willingly. I should think that might be a great gift to God.

10:22 PM  
Blogger RichardM said...

Christine,

Thanks for dropping by. I continue to check out your blog from time to time, mostly for the pictures of nature. I feel our current environmental crisis is partly due to the fact that we have lost our appreciation for natural beauty. But of course therre are many other causes as well.

Laurie,

Good to see you are feeling well enough to do a little blogging. I hope the operation goes well. I'll pray for you and your lovely family.

8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post.Thank you Richard

Liz Collinson

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please check out this Illuminated and liberating Understanding of death and everything else.

Altogether the author points out that understanding death is the key to right living.

1. www.easydeathbook.com
2. www.dabase.org/dualsens.htm
3. www.dabase.org/happytxt.htm
4. www.adidam.org/death_and_dying/index.html

10:40 PM  

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