We are not meant to die alone in nursing homes and hospitals, with gray faces, morphine drips, and flickering television screens. We are meant to live, die, and live eternally surrounded by a community of love. Creating that community of love, especially within one’s family, takes hard work and sacrifice.
The need to reconcile with one’s finitude and live as good a life in light of this was made clear by many of the more successful essays and tallied with my own experience of coming to terms with the limits on my life from my condition, both in an everyday and an ultimate sense.
No one even tried to keep me. The dead, not an argumentative sort to begin with, never had the chance. The living, God bless them, had been so thoroughly tutored by modern life that they could, in the same breath, say how wonderful was my “great opportunity” to go and how sad they would be that I couldn’t stay.
When Petrarch uses Augustine to call himself out for being bound and dragged down by the “chains of love and glory,” students are forced to consider what it is they are pursuing, in college and in life.
This prayer, which enumerates what Warren calls “a taxonomy of vulnerability,” epitomizes how, far from being irrelevant or obscure, the mysteries of God fill the hardest parts of life.
Hall’s elegiac poetry and prose teach grim lessons that are worth heeding, but there is also a sort of unsentimental, necessary hope—a hope for continuity and unexpected rebirth, a hope that keeps open a sense of possibility—that shines obscurely beneath their grief.