Saturday, February 3, 2007

Death Be Not Proud

Yesterday we celebrated Kelly’s birthday. My brother Ben suggested we release balloons in Kelly’s honor. In Florida, we set our balloon free at precisely 9:53 am CT—the moment of Kelly’s grand entrance into this world in 1958—and watched as it floated upwards until we could see it no more.

Joyless, I muttered: “Happy Birthday Smelly Kelly”—one of the many irksome aliases I have bestowed on my little brother throughout his life.

There were tears and a heavy heart. Still there was a bittersweet satisfaction in acknowledging Kelly’s birthday. We love him; we miss him; we grieve his loss.

Death is ugly and we cannot, indeed should not, try to make it palatable or explain it away with pious platitudes. Death is a cruel reality in life—ugly, brutal and fearsome. It is an intruder and a thief. The vital living relationship I had with my brother is disconnected by death. Kelly is not returning my calls. I miss the sound of his voice. It is as if I am stumbling in the dark reaching out to find him, to embrace him, to laugh with him—all to no avail.

Kelly was created for life and had a fearless zest for living it. When death strikes suddenly with hurricane force winds at high altitude or hounds a ailing loved one mercilessly over time, survivors feel cheated and experience a kind of dizzy disorientation. Somehow we know in our hearts it is not supposed to be this way. Kelly was made for life and yet he is gone, swallowed by the mountain.

John Donne warned death not to be proud. Death will face its own mortality. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (I Cor 15:26). I believe death’s gloating grin one day will be wiped away forever. Until then I lament my brother.



Anonymous said...

Dirge without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.

I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Carolyn said...

I watch my husband reach for words to describe the ache he feels in his heart now that Kelly is gone. Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem is a reminder to me that those who grieve the loss of someone dear—someone of whom it can be said, "More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world"—speak a language all their own.

Thank you for posting this beautiful piece. How we all long for the day when our sorrowing hearts are mended for good.


Anonymous said...

I will continue praying for you and your family. I pray that in time the pain will ease. It's times like these that I wish I had a magic wand to undo what has been done. Hold him tight in your heart.

QQ said...

Dear Dr. James and Carolyn,

May your songs of lament become messages of comfort for many...

Respectfully, helen qiu

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I have followed this story since it began in December and have been here many times reading and crying. I have prayed for you and cried for you. I am married to an outdoor adventure seeking man. I think of Karen James often and I wonder how she is. Would it be possible for you to post something? Cynthia