“Holy Sonnet X” – John Donne
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and souls deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Death, ironically, the only surety in life.
Many fear it because we don’t know what awaits us on the other side – or if there even is an “other side” for that matter. Yes there are many with conflicting views; some say there is a Heaven and a Hell and you’ll be judged for your earthly actions and sent to either. Others believe that your soul will be recycled and sent back to Earth for a new life etc. etc.
I have recently come to a realisation – I am not okay with my own mortality. It’s all very well and good to be bold and say that one does not fear death, but I think that deep down, everyone is at least a little bit afraid, even if they won’t admit to it.
I fear the day that my loved ones will be taken from me. I lost my Aunt last year (2014) and it is still unbelievable to me. I often think of her in the present tense and then realisation, like a swift punch to the stomach, brings me back to reality. My grandfather passed away when I was 7 years old and to this day, I cannot think of him without getting emotional. Clearly I do not deal well with loss (a topic for another day).
I fear the day that I am taken from this world. I often wonder to myself “When I die, I wonder if people will miss me”. By the time I shuffle off this mortal coil, I want to know that I made some sort of mark on the world and in people’s lives – but how can I know?
Perhaps the scariest part of death is that it doesn’t keep a calendar. The uncertainty of when it will strike is what scares me to no end. Death comes like a thief in the night and robs us of our most precious possessions.
A quote by James Baldwin illustrates my point more eloquently:
Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time.
This is all terribly morbid, isn’t it? But there is a reason I started this piece out with John Donne’s “Holy Sonnet X” aka “Death Be Not Proud”. We do not have the answers when it comes to death – nor do I think we will ever, but perhaps if we are able to change the way we think of it, it loses its power over us.
We can conquer death, maybe not in a literal sense, but in a more abstract one. If we remove the notion of “finality” from death, then it becomes another part of life.
I believe that we are not our physical bodies, but that once this vessel ceases to function, that our souls will continue on in our journey. I believe in a thereafter; that one day we will be reunited with the ones we love in a place called Paradise. So I echo the words of John Donne and say death be not proud because “One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”