Dying

For the past twenty-nine years, I have been dying. I shall continue to do so for probably another fifty. And then, one day, I shall stop. On an unknown day at an unknown our, I shall stop dying. And I shall start something else.

Here is, I think, more than anything the human mystery. That moment, always slightly shrouded, when we cease being in danger of death. Everything changes, including ourselves. The final mystery, the final enemy, explodes onto the scene.

This calls to mind a poem by the Carmelite Jessica Powers:

“The Great Mystery”

My uncle had one sober comment for
all deaths. Well, he (or she)
has, he would say, solved the great mystery.
I tried as child to pierce the dark unknown,
straining to reach the keyhole of that door,
massive and grave through which one slips alone.

A little girl is mostly prophecy.
And here, as there before,
when fact arrests me at that solemn door,
I reach and find the keyhole still too high,
though now I can surmise that it will be
light (and not darkness) that will meet the eye.

Death, they say, is the great leveler, that once they die the wealthy, the powerful, the wonderful, will be like the poor, the weak, the unnoticed. Perhaps the future tense is unwarranted. The great and mighty are today just as much dying as we all are, and like us they are too small to reach that keyhole. Perhaps they are even smaller. It is not the wealthy who teach us how to die. For that we need the poor, the meek, the lowly.

Blessed are the poor, for to them belongs the kingdom of heaven.

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