Poem for Today: On Passing On
There’s a funeral for my mom’s great childhood friend today. Last night, I listened to this most beautiful, heartbreaking podcast on the way to the prayer service. It’s an interview (but so so so much more) of actor Ellen Burstyn. The 81-year-old talks leaving home to pursue a career at 18, an abusive marriage, motherhood, and how loving others keeps her alive.
When asked to consider aging and her eventual demise, Burstyn offered this lovely and befitting poem.
When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
As my big sister always says...
”Stay curious, stay kind.”
Cover photo by Laura Letinsky
Podcast via Cup of Jo