Tag Archives: death and dying

Trump, 4 Dead Soldiers, & Col. Cathcart

Trump handled the death of the four Green Berets who died in Niger like Col. Cathcart in “Catch-22” would have. A better model would be Ned Stark in “Game of Thrones.”

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Will Warm Days Never Cease?

Changes in climate can cause us to see classic poems in a new light. Case in point: Keats’s “To Autumn.”

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A Blessing We Cannot Begin To Fathom

Jan Richardson reminds readers not to offer facile rationalizations to those who have lost loved ones. She also reassures that the heart a “stubborn and persistent pulse.”

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Clean Rooms, Despair of the Mind

Mary Oliver’s “University Hospital, Boston” captures my experience of having a friend in a hospital. Oliver understands the various ironies involved.

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Rachel Kranz, R. I. P.

When my best friend Rachel Kranz died yesterday. I turned to Shelley’s “Adonais” for comfort.

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Once There Was Light

I turned to Jane Kenyon’s “Having It Out with Melancholy” when a friend’s illness suddenly took a turn for the worse.

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Lit Comforts an ALS Sufferer

This past March an ALS sufferer spoke eloquently, shortly before her death, about how she turned to Sophocles, Kafka, and Shakespeare for comfort.

Posted in Kafka (Franz), Shakespeare (William), Sophocles | Also tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lear, Trump & the Tyrant’s Loneliness

Donald Trump is like Lear in that both are trapped in a loneliness of their own making and, in their despair, both make the lives around them miserable. Lear finds his soul again at the end of the play, however. It might take a similar adversity for Trump to do so as well.

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Memorial Day: Anthem for Doomed Youth

With Memorial Day, there is the danger that we will romanticize the deaths of the fallen rather than face up to the full tragedy. This tension can be seen in a number of World War I poems, some of which romanticize the fallen while others dwell on the absurdity of their deaths.

Posted in Binyon (Laurence), Brooke (Rupert), Owen (Wilfred), Seeger (Alan) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fires and the Black River of Loss

We recently held a memorial service for my dear friend and colleague Kate Chandler. I read from some of Kate’s eloquent nature writings and concluded with a Mary Oliver poem.

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A Dear Friend Is Made One with Nature

My dear, dear friend Kate Chandler died yesterday. I am turning to Percy Shelley’s, a poem she loved, as I mourn her.

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Lit As a Framework for Exploring Death

Paul Kalinithi turned to existential writers as he attempted to understand the fact that he was dying. He arrived at a more spiritual understanding than he anticipated.

Posted in Beckett (Samuel), Eliot (T.S.), Greville (Baron Brook Fulke), Tolstoy (Leo) | Also tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poe: Trapped in the Prison of the Self

Two Chinese students have brought home to me, from their collectivist perspective, how Edgar Allan Poe went against the grain of American individualism. He exposed its dark side, even as Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman were unabashedly celebrated it.

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Death Seems Comely at the Fall of the Leaf

The lure of many autumn poems lies in how they focus on a vanishing beauty. Dante Gabriel Rossetti finds death to be “a comely thing/In Autumn at the fall of the leaf.”

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Emily Dickinson & Going to Heaven

In “Going to Heaven,” Emily Dickinson grapples with the idea of heaven but, in her skepticism, concludes that too much focus on the afterlife will draw her attention away from “curious earth.”

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Reconnecting with My Dead Son

Thursday I had a shock of recognition while teaching Stephen King’s IT in my American Fantasy class yesterday. The approach to life that saves the day for the protagonist is the approach that got my eldest son killed 16 years ago. Yet I don’t think King is wrong. In fact, I was comforted once I saw the […]

Posted in King (Stephen), Wordsworth (William) | Also tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Poems To Mourn a Russian History Prof

When a Russian history professor died at our college, his colleagues turned to poetry as they wrestled with his premature death. Ovid, Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Turgenev, and Walt Whitman provided powerful words.

Posted in Ovid, Pushkin (Alexander), Turgenev (Ivan), Whitman (Walt) | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Doctors Need Lit To Stay Human

A doctor argues that continuous reading of literature is essential to keep doctors balanced and to help them deal with the problems that come with the profession.

Posted in Dickinson (Emily), Fowler (Jaren Joy), Kazuo Ishiguro, Murakami (Haruki) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Implore His Aid, in His Decisions Rest

The famous passage from Ecclesiastes–“All is vanity”–inspired a great poem by Samuel Johnson. Johnson’s final conclusion is that we can find happiness only in prayer.

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Medicine & Lit, Working Together

Paul Kalinithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air” represents an ideal blending of science and the humanities, including literature. It’s a book we all should be reading.

Posted in Whitman (Walt) | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments

Doctor Faustus: Lessons in Grieving

After watching two students turn to Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” as they grieved the death of parents, I have come to see the play as a powerful meditation upon how we respond to death.

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In Memory of Daniel Berrigan

Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit activist and poet, died this past Saturday. His “A Dark Word” is a fitting way to note his passing.

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I Am the Dance and the Dance Goes On

At my eldest son’s funeral 16 years ago we sang “The Lord of the Dance.” Justin was a joyous dancer and I imagine him dancing somewhere, in some plane, whenever I hear the hymn.

Posted in Carter (Sydney) | Also tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

On the Death of a Controversial Judge

How long should one pause following the death of a public figure like Justice Antonin Scalia before considering the political implications? It’s an issue that also arises in Anthony Trollope’s “Barchester Towers.”

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Child Heroines Who Die for Our Sins

The child heroine who dies, a common trope in the 19th century, continues to fascinate us, appearing in “Bridge to Tarabithia” and “The Fault Is in Our Stars.” One of my students has this as a senior project topic.

Posted in Alcott (Louisa May), Bronte (Charlotte), Dickens (Charles), Paterson (Katherine), Poe (Edgar Allan), Stowe (Harriet Beecher) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hearing the Sound of Roses Singing

For Mary Oliver, going into the woods and paying attention to nature is a form of prayer.

Posted in Oliver (Mary) | Also tagged , , | 3 Comments

He Doth Sit By Us and Moan

Last week I was honored by my friend Jean Yeatman when she asked me to sit with her at her mother’s deathbed. We talked about childhood excursions that our families took together and also about the importance of ritual in our lives. Today’s William Blake poem is for her and her brother Clay. Blake finds […]

Posted in Blake (William) | Also tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Please Go Gentle into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle” can be read as a narcissistic desire by young people that their elders will go out on young people’s terms.

Posted in Marlowe (Christopher), Thomas (Dylan), Tolstoy (Leo) | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dying and a Night Powdered with Stars

Oliver Sacks, as he is dying, shares Milton’s wonder at a night sky “powdered with stars.”

Posted in Milton (John) | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Soldier, Rest, Thy Warfare O’er

In “Soldier Rest,” Sir Walter Scott captures how inviting death can look to those caught up in battle’s throes.

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Mourning Lincoln, Mourning My Son

Whitman’s mourning of Lincoln in “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” also captures what it feels like to lose a child.

Posted in Whitman (Walt) | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

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