Unpreparing

A further post on the matter of mentally preparing for death. Or un-. Not sure why I’m on this kick. But as I was in the middle of all these thoughts, a high-school English teacher of mine, David Weber, sent me the gorgeous poem below. It was written by another former teacher at Exeter, Charles W. Pratt.

The poem takes the opposite angle from my last post, where I was saying that I would want a little bit of time to meet my own death. Not enough to linger, but enough to say my goodbyes, to express gratitude, and to beg forgiveness where necessary. To get the kind of footing under me that Jane Kenyon seems to have found in her famous piece, “Let Evening Come.”

Let me be immersed in life when it happens, Pratt says in his powerful poem. I hope you’re as moved as I was.

 

Resolution, by Charles W. Pratt

 

When the tsunami draws back its fistful of waters

And crushes the city, let me for once be ready.

Let me be washing the dishes or patting the dog.

 

When the great windstorm angles across the flatlands

Hungry and howling, let me be patting the dog.

Let me kneading the bread or picking an apple.

 

When the ground shudders and splits and all walls fall,

Let me writing a letter or kneading the bread.

Let me holding my lover, watching the sunrise.

 

When the suicide bomber squeezes the trigger

And fierce the flames spurt and wild the body parts fly,

Let me be holding my lover or drinking my coffee.

 

Let us be drinking our coffee, unprepared.

 

“Resolution,” ©2010 by Charles W. Pratt. Used with permission. In From the Box Marked Some Are Missing, New and & Selected Poems, Brookline, NH: Hobblebush Books, 2010. www.hobblebush.com

 

PC250309 (2)

Julian and Tony on The Ridge at Loveland Ski Area, Christmas Day, 2010.

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4 thoughts on “Unpreparing

  1. Dear Claudia,
    I am a pilgrim, working these sorts of issues out for myself. I like Mr. Pratt’s poem too.

    But on the eve of my minister, Rev. Peter J. Gomes, passing on, I wanted to share a moment I had with him last May. After the service for our deceased classmates at my 25th college reunion, I left Memorial Church in Harvard Yard and shook Peter’s hand. I only had a few seconds, because the whole church was surging out and I knew everyone wanted to greet him too. So in about 10 seconds I told him how much his books and sermons had comforted me for the past quarter century. He seemed to like that, and thanked me for the complements. Then I moved on, to look for my family in the warm spring morning of the flowering Yard.

    And now the person who helped me so much in my spiritual life is too soon dead at 68. I have been listening to his sermons today online. To be honest, as I have written you, I am not a religious person any more. Gomes was all about a life in Christ, but he was also much more than that.

    Part of my feelings of relief that I expressed my gratitude to him are rooted in vanity – I know this. But all the same, I am glad I had my 10 seconds with him – he seemed happy to be acknowledged. Why didn’t I do more to express the depth of my thanks, before or after? Life was moving on, then and now.

    • Thanks, once again, for sharing so much of your personal experience, Seung. You are lucky to have had a spiritual teacher like this. I never did. Perhaps I’ll write about this absence in the near future. I’m glad you had these last few moments with him, though. I don’t think we’ll ever have the opportunity to express all our gratitude. Do you remember how we talked about that calm we’ve experienced in those moments close to death? You said you felt sorrow about not expressing thanks to those you felt thankful toward. But did you for one moment think, Oh, so & so never said thank you to *me*? I didn’t think so. 🙂 I think if someone dies without our having had a chance to say goodbye, they will be all right. We have to carry our thanks forward to next person who comes our way.

  2. Hi Claudia,

    Well, we are once again on the same wavelength. I just posted an essay called, “The Nature of Impermanence,” and talk about some of these very issues in that essay. Woo-woo, yes?

    (Weeeooo…wierd, spooky music here.)

    It is always such a pleasure to read your writing. Thank you for the new posts and beautiful, thought-provoking poems. Take Good Care,

    Andi

    PS: Catch my interview in the NY Times this Thursday, March 3rd, in the Home Section. No kidding!

  3. That IS weird, because that didn’t come into my RSS reader till yesterday, Tuesday. Yet it’s dated Feb 25. I feel like a lot of your posts don’t come through my feeds till late, which bums me out because I always light up when I see something new of yours. My favorite excuse to take a break from whatever I’m working on…a new post from Andi! I’m still working on my woowoo post. I hope it’ll be done next week.

    Congrats, in advance, on the NYer article. I can’t wait to see it.

    Everyone, go check out Andi’s blog, and her piece on impermanence:

    http://www.burningdownthehouseblog.com/the-nature-of-impermanence

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