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Saturday, March 03, 2018

Literature and music provide a road map to good living

My extended family is grappling with my brother's death and the many events related to that including visits by relatives, planning services, coordinating the efforts of his children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, friends, and other relatives. 

It has not been easy as my brother was a strong and dynamic personality--the kind of person that no one forgets and the kind of person that everyone had a different relationship with. In a sense, everyone remembers him a bit differently, and everyone wants to celebrate his life with a bit different approach--the kind of approach that mirrors their relationship with and understanding of my brother.

So in the past few days there have been many discussions and even some disagreements about what to say and what to do as we try to figure out how to well remember and honor my brother Paul's life.

As I thought about this today, I was brought back to two of my most poignant literature references related to death. The first is from the play, Our Town by Thornton Wilder. It is the scene when the young mother who has died is in heaven looking down on her children and includes these quotes, 

"...That's what it was to be alive. To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of those about you. To spend and waste time as though you had a million years. To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion, or another.” 

“Let's really look at one another!...It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed... Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute? (Emily)” 

And the second is from Ralph Fletcher's book, Fig Pudding, when he writes, “When someone you love dies, you get a big bowl of sadness put down in front of you, steaming hot. You can start eating now, or you can let it cool and eat it bit by bit later on. Either way, you end up eating the whole thing. There's really no way around it.” 

In good times, and not so good times, we can look to literature and music too to guide us, provide us with the right words, and give us solace. This is why it is so important to read and to share good books with others. I can imagine that all my friends and family members have different quotes and examples from literature and music that guide them at times like these, and I hope they won't hesitate to share those with me. 

In Our Town when Emily asks if anyone ever realizes life when they live it, the response is ,". . .Saints and poets maybe...they do some,” and it is these saints and poets of literature that help us to see with greater depth and understanding. May we reach for these saints and poets and authors and musicians often to guide our ways in both happy and sad times in this every changing life we live. 


This is a song that many have thought of as they remember my brother. 


                                              My brother was an avid Grateful Dead fan.