Monday, November 14, 2016

It Tolls For Me

This past Friday was Veterans Day in the US as well as our neighboring Canada. As always, I showed a film clip and Friday's was about the special remembrance. I recounted how as a history teacher, I had my students memorize In Flanders Fields, a moving short poem on death and duty by Canadian soldier and doctor, John McCrae. To illustrate, I played a clip of Canadian poet/songwriter/singer Leonard Cohen reciting the classic ode, partly because of the irony that Cohen had passed away earlier in the week. I had the video posted on Facebook so I went there so we could watch it. But a funny thing happened. There was a streamer at the top of my page announcing, it seems, my death. I asked my class if that was their interpretation and it was. It read as follows: 
"Remembering Steve Hawley. We hope people who love Steve will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate his life. Learn more about memorialized accounts and the legacy contact setting on Facebook."
The banner was still up when my next class arrived and they too were tickled. It turns out it was simply a glitch that was widespread and appeared on many accounts, including that of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook fixed it quickly but more than a few got a start I'm convinced as well as a chuckle. 

Did you know rock music Hall of Famer Leon Russell died yesterday? (Loved Back To The Island!) And that acclaimed journalist Gwen Ifill passed away today? In my classes this Monday, we noted that the Apostle John is believed the only one of the Twelve to die of old age, i.e., natural causes. I asked and not totally facetiously if all death is due to natural causes. We begin dying at birth and it becomes a matter of time and place. More importantly, it's how we live. Death doesn't bypass the wealthy and powerful and only visit the poor and desolate. Cohen, Russell, and Ifill were well known and respected and I would guess much wealthier than most of the rest of us. But we all have the same inevitable fate. In my history teaching days, I had y students memorize this famous quotation from John Donne's Devotions:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manor of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

We know death is coming; we just don't know when. I wish we took Donne's words to heart about the connection between the death of others and our own mortality but that might be too overwhelming. But it wasn't so overwhelming that Jesus failed to grieve as well. In our notes in the spring, I will have the kids type The Creator of life was disturbed by death on the occasion of Jesus weeping at the death of Lazarus. He is the one who can change life into death....and did! We know we won't get out of here alive in a human sense but the rewards of the afterlife so far outweigh these few decades we are restrained by gravity. So cheer up! I'm not dead yet!

PS: I do think it ironic that my favorite Leon Russell song is Back To The Island, which you can listen to here!

Applicable quote of the day:

Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.
George Eliot

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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