Someone died last night
Death is never welcome news. In every age and in every place, people have been saddened at the end of a person's life. It is news which is often dreaded, except if the person is your enemy. To human thinking, it is something which should not be. It does not belong in this world. It is an intruder. It is something imposed from somewhere. It is implicitly rejected. It always takes us by surprise.
Yet, there is nothing which makes us take stock of the reality of life as death. There is nothing in life as intimate as death. There is nothing which touches us more deeply than the passing of a loved one.
Death is the greater teacher of life. It is a school in which all of us are invited at some point in our lives to sit and learn. Indeed, death is the light cast on our destiny. It gives meaning to life. It compels us to sit and reflect on our past life and on the lives of those whose loss we mourn. It speaks to us of the beauty of the life of one whom we perhaps had up to that time failed to appreciate.
When someone dies, it is a piece of humanity that has left this earth. An experience of life has departed from our midst and the whole earth is in mourning. One of us has walked this way and will never pass again.
A gift, bestowed by God, lived and walked among us. That gift of a person laughed and wept, experienced hopes and fears, sorrows and joys. In our minds and hearts, there is a memorial, an enduring memory of a life that was lived. Someone in his own way fashioned his destiny. In doing so he left his imprint on the sands of time, an imprint that is often not visible but nonetheless real. Every use and expression of human life is unique. It has never happened before. It will never happen again.
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
—Thomas Gray, Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard.
No life is ever wasted. In the minds of men and women, it may appear to be wasted but it never can be wasted. A life that consists of show and imposition may make a deep impression while it lasts. It may catch the attention and admiration of many people. It may even court the reverence and adulation of a vast number of people. But a quiet, simple, unassuming life may be more inspiring. Strident, pompous sounds may resonate in a man's day. But they will not endure. They will never transcend the limitations of time.
The legitimate joys, the silent efforts, fidelity to one's duty will endure. The hopes and aspirations that inspired one's journey of constructive living will remain. The moral courage shown in the face of adversity and threatening challenges will not die. They supersede the limitations of mere human progression. They create a link with the eternal.
We live in a world where there are many distinctions among people. These distinctions are of many kinds. They tend to cause division between people. In fact, it is this divisiveness that is the cause of most of the conflict in this world. It leads to factions and aggressive behaviour. People are led to rally together and fight to defend their own turf.
Death is the great leveller. It casts some down to their true size. It raises others to their true height. It makes us all brothers and sisters. It establishes solidarity between people. It shows us how vulnerable we all are. It teaches us to be gentle, loving, compassionate and forgiving. It was this which led the great poet, John Donne, to write:
Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.