Among the readings I selected was a poem my Mary Oliver When Death Comes. It captured the finality of it all, but also the beauty of a life lived well.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to contribute something to a Love Book our friends were compiling for one of my best friends' wedding. I knew I would select a poem, as poetry is a key dimension to our relationship. But in the universe of poems, somehow I kept coming back to Mary Oliver and When Death Comes. Nothing else seemed to capture what I wanted to contribute with such love, such confronting truth.
So, a poem for all occasions, universal, and particular, as a poem, if it be a poem, should be. I thought you might like it.
When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
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 measles-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 is 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.