Dying, wonderful music and standing with Wisconsin’s demonstrators

I frequently struggle to think of a topic for this blog and today I decided I wouldn’t try to come up with one. Instead I’d do what many bloggers do and talk about a variety of topics briefly, but I hope provocatively. For example, I had meant to reply to Judith Acosta’s recent post about American attitudes about dying. Nothing she said struck me as especially original but it may not be possible to write about death with any originality. It was a thoughtful and positive essay. I was surprised she didn’t mention the nano technologies that some people hope will end death, or at least human death, not because I think they’ll succeed or fail but because they say something about the desperation with which human beings cling to hope of immortality. Also, I find the remote possibility of an end to dying bends my perspective just enough so that I begin to think about death and dying in a positive way—as part of life and living. Although I’m sure that’s all to the good, dying still scares the hell out of me.

I was struck by Ms. Acosta’s claim that she was no longer afraid of death. Back in the late 1980s a casual but greatly loved friend of mine died unexpectedly. Or at least I didn’t expect it. I found myself worrying that she might have been terrified by the suddenness of it. A much closer friend to her than I was, and a pastor’s wife to boot, had been with her when it happened and when I ran into her not long after at some kind of town event I blurted out my concern. I think she was taken aback—perhaps it seemed like a very personal question in a public place—but her answer was straight forward and it’s stayed with me to this day.

“Of course. What was happening was entirely new and different—of course, she was anxious and afraid.”

It was such an obvious answer. One of those “why didn’t I think of that?” kinds of remarks.

Different perspectives can also be confusing.

Other subjects. I have several Facebook nieces, the kinds of nieces who are related only by civil unions past and present. One, who’s a remarkable violist, just passed on an incredible performance from Theodora, a Handel oratorio, sung by the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (who had also been a violist). It’s on YouTube. It’s extraordinarily moving and oh, how I wish she hadn’t died. But my god, what she left to the rest of us!

Like most of the people I know, I’ve been excited by the freedom movements in the Middle East and made hopeful, despite all, by the demonstrations in Wisconsin. That people from Egypt were among those ordering pizza for the demonstrators delights me. I hope to go to our state’s rally on Saturday (Montpelier, Vermont at 12 noon), when people will mass on the steps of state houses across the country. I hope those of you who can will think about doing the same! If you want some inspiration read Ronni Bennett’s post (February 25) on Time Goes By and pray she’s right!!!

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