“Nothing is simpler than to kill a man; the difficulties arise in attempting to avoid the consequences.” — Rex Stout, Too Many Cooks
“During these last months the King walked with death as if death were a companion, an acquaintance whom he recognized and did not fear. In the end death came as a friend, and after a happy day of sunshine and sport, and after “good night” to those who loved him best, he fell asleep as every man or woman who strives to fear God and nothing else in the world may hope to do.” — Winston Churchill, February 7, 1952, on the death of King George VI
I think many people hope that this sort of death awaits them, but I doubt it’s an entirely true account of the King’s experience. It’s lovely rhetoric that honors and elevates a respected man and emphasizes his fearlessness.More
If you knew you only had a 1% chance of surviving tomorrow, would you consider that a death sentence? What about 2%, 5%, 10%… at what point would your odds of survival be good enough you wouldn’t feel doomed? And what if you had to purchase your fairly slim chance at survival by risking the life of another? When would you do it? What balance of risk would just barely escape counting as doom?
What if you were the other whose life was risked on the slim hope of avoiding someone else’s death sentence? When would that hope be worth it, and when would it be a forlorn one? How effective must our efforts to lift another’s doom be in order to merit the price?More
Over the years, Ricochet has inspired lasting friendships, not least of which is many members’ friendship with @tommeyer, who’s not only a great guy, but someone who rendered Ricochet great service before he moved on to other things. When Herb Meyer, Tom’s father, died, the outpouring of thanksgiving for Herb’s life was tremendous. At the time, I dedicated a motet I was working on to Herb’s memory, but life having gotten in the way, I haven’t had a chance to share it with the Ricoverse until now:More
Death, or the specter of death, has been weighing on my life lately. It feels like a weight that I am able to carry, but one that is sometimes oppressive.
I first noticed it around D-Day. Normally I try to take these events in stride. After all, life and death are inextricable partners, no matter how difficult they may seem. But the thought of soldiers dying in huge numbers, and their leaders knowing that they would likely be sacrificing their lives, was a sad awareness that still lingers.More
Three weeks ago, my dad talked to me for the last time. Three days ago, he died.
During those final weeks, any words surprised me. He was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago, four years after that with Alzheimer’s disease, and hasn’t been able to converse for several months. Every visit, he was a bit quieter, a lot thinner; a little less like Dad.More
This Memorial Day week-end has been especially poignant for me, and I’m not sure of the reasons. The touching posts we’ve seen about history, family and friends have both filled and hurt my heart; they are filled with pride, loss and truth. I’m reading Tom Cotton’s book on The Old Guard and did a post […]
“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.” — Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
At a rational level, we all know that we will eventually die. But it seems like a far off ending to our lives. The fact is, though, that everything dies. We can’t hold on to anything forever: relationships end, flowers die, cars end up in junkyards, no matter how often we try to save them.More
On May 1, 2017, I wrote the obituary of someone who died on March 25, 2019. Of course I left the date of death blank. I could not have guessed it. Indeed, until the latter date, I mean until about midday that very day, I did not think the subject was about to die. As […]
In another conversation, I mentioned that when I was growing up my father was a policeman and I heard about some suicides that were not necessarily suicides, like the belt-and-braces suicide. One guy shot himself in the heart with a long gun (a shotgun, maybe), and then he shot himself in the back of the head with a pistol just to make sure. Ricochet member @alfrench contributed this to the thread:
“Stole more chains than he could carry, then tried to swim across the River with them.”
“As soon as a man comes to life,” wrote Martin Heidegger, “he is at once old enough to die.” That’s not exactly a new insight, but it does have the virtue of clarity, which wasn’t Heidegger’s long suit. Being and Time is so incoherent that it makes Hegel look breezy in comparison. Still, statements like Heidegger’s do […]
“I am very old, and fortunate that someone so lovely as Abishag the Shunammite ministers to me every day. In another minute or two, she will be completed with her preparations and come to my bed. I will treasure the warmth and sweetness of her. You think that makes me happy? You think I’m at peace now with my Maker? Anything but. I am thinking of God now, and I am thinking of Saul. I think of Saul in his wordless gloom and torment every time I came to his chamber to play for him, and I realize as I remember that I never saw a sadder face on human being until a little while ago, when Abishag the Shunammite held a mirror up for me to see and I looked at mine.” — from God Knows, by Joseph Heller
One of my favorite books, God Knows tells the story of King David from his perspective in his age. As Scripture relates, when David was an old man he was unable to stay warm, and so a beautiful young virgin was given to him to minister to him and keep him warm in his bed. In Heller’s book, David appreciates Abishag’s comeliness, but he only feels desire for Bathsheba, whose only desire is for her son Solomon to be king.More
My senior year in high school, I took College English with Father Dibble. He only taught four days a week, and on the fifth day we had a study hall. One day I decided to bring in a book for pleasure, The Princess Bride by William Goldman. The movie is funny, but the book is even funnier. I sat there reading, trying to stifle my giggles. My guffaws. My out-loud laughter.
Each time I burst out, I looked up and caught the eye of Fr. Dibble staring at me. I muttered apologies and slid down in my desk to keep reading. Finally I let out a loud shout of laughter, and Fr. Dibble walked over to me with a stern look on his face and a pad of paper and pen in hand. Leaning over, in a whisper he asked me, “What are you reading? If it is only one-half as funny as you think it is, I want to read it too.”More
. . . this is not the same couple. Even if it isn’t, I feel for the couple who did fall: https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/experience/america/national-parks/2018/10/19/proposal-captured-yosemite-photographer-searches-couple-twitter-social-media/1698538002/ More
Last summer I was browsing through our towns’ police department Facebook pages because sometimes I like to see a little of what is going on in that circle. It’s very limited, but sometimes they have useful traffic or fire updates, and it’s interesting to see what crimes might be mentioned. One incident that stood out to me was the death of a motorcyclist on one of the main roads. The driver of a pickup had changed lanes into him and knocked him into a box truck. The details were sparse, as you would expect from a simple Facebook post, but the motorcyclist died, and it was hinted as likely the fault of the pickup driver.
Yesterday, I volunteered to be in the church nursery as I had been sick on my normal day and it just so happened that my husband’s aunt had also volunteered and were placed in the same room. I haven’t seen her for a while because she just retired and has been off to places like Kenya, the Philippines, and Missouri. She is one of those involved, social ladies that knows everyone and is generally up to speed on the happenings of our cities. I don’t know how people do that.*More
Last month I wrote about a shark attack on a Cape Cod beach. Today I am writing about a shark attack on a Cape Cod beach. This time a great white shark killed a man. This news is terribly sad and, if you are familiar with the area, completely expected. Like the attack in August, […]
On any given day, around 6,700 Americans die. Celebrities, being mortals like the rest of us, die too, and when they do we are treated to eulogies, obituaries, memorials, and of course blog posts, Facebook status updates, and tweets. As one reads these, one is struck by the prevalence of the first-person singular pronouns. Frank Bruni noted this phenomenon in his recent New York Times piece, “Death in the Age of Narcissism“:
Just before and after John McCain’s death on Saturday, I read many tweets, Facebook posts and essays that beautifully captured his importance.
It’s that time of year again. I embark this week on my journey back to my boyhood home to spend the summer on the farm taking care of my Dad. Since 1981 I have lived in Texas. When I retired in 2014, my wife and I bought the house I grew up in from my parents. Mom had passed two years prior and she had always wanted my wife and me to buy the house — she wanted the peace of mind that it would remain in the family. At that point in time, Dad had been living with Parkinson’s Disease for 10 years. His mobility was diminishing but he could still live at home. Two years later, in March 2016, we had to move him into a nursing home. We are blessed in that it is only a mile from our house and sits on 100 acres of beautiful grounds. The facility is a former convent and still has a strong connection to the Catholic Church. Many aging nuns and priests are there and daily mass is offered, along with exceptional health care. Yet, Dad is failing. I can’t believe he has lived with Parkinson’s as long as he has. He is 90 now, and not only is a physical wreck, but is starting to fail mentally. That is probably all detail that you didn’t need but it gets me to the point of this post: this beautiful reflection on the book of Ecclesiastes.
Monsignor Charles Pope begins his reflection:More
Several years back I was perusing Facebook and saw off to the side where one of my friends had liked something. There were two problems with it. The first was that it was a shaving product and my friend had had a beard for decades. The second problem was that my friend had died the month before. “Great,” I thought, “he comes back as a zombie and decides to go clean-shaven.”
I was reminded of this when someone just linked over to Twitter. I looked at the tweet in question and then started perusing my oft-neglected Twitter feed. I noticed that Don Rickles had posted on May 4 about his dog. I thought, “Wait a minute. What is he doing posting? Didn’t he die last year? Did some hockey puck bury his phone and a charger with him?”More
Her parents knew when she was young that something was wrong. She refused therapy (which has little to no effect on this condition). We learned about her behavior gradually, finally figuring out that my uncle had alluded to it, but was probably too humiliated to share it with us. Although I’m not an expert in […]