October 25, 2017: Everybody Dies

~by Louis Templeman


I was watching a video clip on YouTube of a 1999 collaboration of Merle Haggard and Jewel singing a love song by Lefty Frizzell. On the thread of comments underneath I found sad goodbyes and dedications referencing the recent death of Merle. I quietly teared up as well. I just loved Merle’s music as a teenager. I had his recordings right along with my Beatles, Roger Miller, and John Hartford albums. Merle died and so many of us were saddened by it. That’s part of life: death. Death and birth are the bookends of every life ever lived. No matter how well or poorly lived, birth and death are the beginning and end of everyone. Soon, I will be gone, Jewel will die, the orchestra that played behind their duet will all die; as well as all the writers on the thread of sad goodbyes posted on YouTube.

Anne Lamott told a story of her thighs dimpled with cellulite, a beach and young girls who passed her reflecting looks of pity. At that moment, she experienced a healing escape from body shaming. As she watched those girls walk on she received an unusual enlightenment. In her imagination she heard, “Tick tock,” as if it were a soundtrack running underneath the tread of those beautiful young girls. Time and gravity pull us all to the same inevitable end. Death is certainly the equalizer. No one small or great escapes. Some may leave monuments, bridges or towns named after them only to cause future generations to wonder whose name that is on the city limit sign. How many millennials even realize there was a William Pitt connected to the city of Pittsburg?

The poet Percy Shelly wrote a poem on this theme – Ozymandias. He writes of an ancient, arrogant, and powerful emperor no longer remembered: except for his haughty and engraved boast and a deteriorating statue crumbling in the sand. The poet writes, “Round the decay of that colossal wreck boundless and bare the lone and level sands stretch far away.” All that was left of a boastful man who issued a statue in his own honor was an etching of self-aggrandizement on a crumbling statue in a lonely part of the desert.

A barefoot Carmelite, former soldier and footman, Brother Lawrence (1614 – 1691) lived his hidden-away life as if he were the steward of his life and not its owner. He was comfortable being unknown, and humble. He is today known as a kitchen worker and sandal repairer for his fellow monks whose fame rose from his piety and love of God. He became known in the religious circles of his day and was regularly sought out for counsel on prayer and his life of meditation. He wrote a small journal and about fourteen letters. And, these he was advised to write by his superiors. An example of his faith and advice is:

There is nothing in the world as delightful as a continual walk with God. Only those who have experienced it can comprehend it. And yet I do not recommend that you seek it solely because it is so enjoyable. Do it because of love, and because it is what God wants. If I were a preacher, the one thing that I would preach about more than anything else is the practice of the presence of God.

This is the phrase he made famous, “The practice of the presence of God”. This was the joy and sole purpose of his life. If his life were likened to a staircase, his first step into his journey was his birth. Death was not feared but welcomed as if it were a kind relative. By this last step he was boosted into eternity and the fullness of the love of God. And, when he met God I am sure they met as old friends. He knew how to live. It may be that those who live well, die well. Death need not be a sad ending. In life, if we practice what is truly important, death becomes a doorway, not an ending.

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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