Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stopping for Death

Today's post was delayed by life and death.  

I don't generally leave room in my cramped schedule for matters eternal.  So today, when I needed to attend a funeral for a good friend's family member, I squeezed the necessary services--indoor religious and snowy graveside--and the repast with the family in between meetings and other work obligations. 

The resultant rushing left me wondering, what kind of life leaves no time for death?  Isn't death, in fact, the most predictable occurrence of all?  Though, granted, it usually doesn't adhere to any timetable we can work around. 

The death of others is a good reminder of what matters, and of the need to use the life we have.  It should be the ultimate antidote to procrastination.  

The man we left behind at the cemetery today was younger than me, as is the case more and more as we ourselves age and escape with our lives--temporarily.  I didn't know him, but his passing brought me the gift of remembered mortality.  And left this poem of Emily Dickinson's playing through my mind.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

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