Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Death Be Not Proud

Death, be not proud though the whole world fear you:
Mighty and dreadful you may seem.
But, death, be not proud, for your pride has failed you.
You will not kill me.
Though you may dwell in plague and poison,
You're a slave to fate and desperate men.

So, death, if your sleep be the gates to Heaven,
Why your confidence,
When you will be no more?
You will be no more.

Even death will die,
Even death will die.

Death, be not proud.
Death, be not proud.
Death, be not proud.
'Cause even death will die.

It's a beautiful rendition of John Donne's poem by Audrey Assad, and as I listened to it today while driving, I thought of the beloved one who died today three years ago.

Since her death, I've written about her on this blog, here and here.
Oh, and here.
And then one more here
She was my piano teacher, and she was so much more.

I wrote about her before her death, too, this post about autumn leaves and resurrection.
I had no idea then how much more those ideas of hers would come to mean,
more than they did my freshman year of college,
more than they did when I wrote about them years later.

Because she--who loved autumn so much and saw in it not only the ends of things
but also the beginnings of things,
an encounter with life at a new perspective,
at a new level of  meaning, of intensity--
she died in autumn.

So this morning I took a walk in the park and thought about her,
and this afternoon I took some pictures with the sun shining through the autumn leaves.
I remembered her (I'll never forget her; she's in my music, in my mind, in my heart,
in the way I hold my hands, in the Bible verses I read, in the words I give to my own students)
and I listened to this song.

Even death will die.

Even death will die.

Death's sleep is the gate to Heaven.

And there, or then, however we should speak of that existence--

"I like to think," my teacher said, "that in heaven we will be like the autumn leaves. Our true colors,
our real selves, will finally be revealed. All the things of earth that had to be a part of this season of lie won't be part of us anymore. Only the truest part of us will remain."

I think everyone who knew her knew they were seeing her truest parts.
Her kindness, her graciousness, her honesty, her compassion.
Her sense of humor, her hearty laugh.
Her love for God and love for others.

And remembering her,
we are helped to let go of unneeded parts of ourselves
so that our truest parts can be revealed,
little by little, day by day.

I know it's true for myself, and I see the things people are writing
on Facebook today.

Her light shone in many lives.

And for her life, and for her love, today I give thanks.
And this wasn't a planned-out decision--it just happened this way--
but it just hit me that her degree was in organ, not piano,
and tonight we had an organist over for dinner.

The first time we've ever had this friend over.
What a lovely gift, a way of connectiong with her
without even intending to.

Life is a funny and wonderful bunch of connections.

So in a minute, I'll go play her music,
the music she told me I just had to get and learn to play,
those last couple of years when she was delving into jazz. . .
because she never, never, never gave up.

When you believe that even death will die,
you never give up.

Good night.


Tom said...

Sheila, I am speechless. In the face of such a wonderful poem; in the face of such an inspired organist and teacher; how can anything else be said, at least by someone who feels so short of words? When I read this, my only vocal response was, "Yes, of course!" The rest of my response was an internal lifting of my spirit which is beyond words.

Sheila said...

Tom, I want so much to come to France and to meet you and Lucy. I do not claim to understand many things, but I do know that there is something very real that is a lifting of my spirit which is beyond words, and it has come about through all the words we share back and forth, and the beautiful images of Lucy's blog.

Mrs. White, my piano teacher, was truly a person who embodied life. Life and love. Since I don't play piano these days nearly as much as I used to, I hope my words and the images do her some honor. And someday I will learn all those nocturnes.

Maybe come to France and play them for you. :-)

Janet said...

I love that poem--and your leaves.

A significant part of my job is planning funerals, and my favorite reading for funerals is one from 1 Corinthians 15 which includes, "Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?" I read that at my mother's funeral last year.