Tag Archives: death and dying

Covid Costs Us Loved Ones’ Final Words

Among the many tragedies related to Covid is how family and friends are missing out on final words. Many literary works touch on the importance of this last encounter.

Posted in Aeschylus, Fielding (Henry), Morrison (Toni), Shakespeare (William) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering My Son 20 Years Later

Remembering my oldest son, who died 20 years ago, I turn to Shelley’s elegy for Keats.

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The Sun Rises in Spite of Everything

A Derek Mahon poem read on Irish state television assures us that “Everything Is Going to Be All Right.”

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The Old Wild Place Beyond All Shame

My friend Sue Schmidt alerted me to this Easter season meditation by Richard Rohr that uses a David Whyte poem to explain what Jesus meant when he said, “Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it.” Rohr believes that Jesus is not calling for people […]

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When Great Souls Die

Tuesday Today is the 19th anniversary of my oldest son’s death. When Justin died in a freak drowning accident in 2000, our world turned upside down. He was 21 at the time and would have been 40 this year. In “When Great Trees Fall,” Maya Angelou captures much of what I experienced. I’m struck by […]

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Along the Flower Trail We Shall Go

Spiritual Sunday My mother lost her favorite cousin on Friday, a woman who somehow managed to remain upbeat for years despite a brain tumor. I’ve been reading Music of the Sky: An Anthology of Spiritual Poetry and found five short poems, all of them heartrendingly beautiful short poems, that I hope will bring comfort to […]

Posted in Crowfoot (Chief Isapwo Muksika), Ichikyo (Kozan), Issa (Kabayashi), Kigen (Dogen), Uncategorized, Wintu poet | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

R.I.P. Mary Oliver, Bride of Amazement

Friday Mary Oliver, who died yesterday, may have been America’s favorite poet. I taught her Pulitzer Prize-winning American Primitive for over 20 years in a nature-focused Introduction to Literature class and so have seen up close her impact on readers. When death has entered my own life, I have often turned to Oliver’s poetry. For […]

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Refusal to Mourn a Death by Fire?!

How do we process the deaths caused by California’s Camp Fire? Dylan Thomas’s scandalously title “Refusal to Mourn” offers a way.

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A Final Resting Place on the Shore

Friday Yesterday Julia and I buried the ashes of writer Rachel Kranz, a dear friend who died a year ago. Her remains were divided between three who were close to her, and I chose to bury those allotted to me on the shore of Lake Eva, which sits on the edge of a bluff in […]

Posted in Bronte (Emily), Wordsworth (William), Yeats (William Butler) | Also tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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