I once was a person who read books based solely on their titles. “Death Be Not Proud” was one that intrigued me at the tender age of 11, South Columbus Elementary School, the library, behind Mrs. Stevens’ (formerly Mrs. Fuller, but she decided to get married, which I never understood why that necessitated her name changing, she was the same lovely, gentle woman, even after the yucky man) black and antiqued gold rocking chair. That’s where it sat – THE book. It was perched on the shelf, faced out, Robby Benson’s piercing blue eyes shrouded beneath his thick mane of raven hair. I reached for the book because of the title, not because of the eye candy on its cover (at the age of 11, boys were just medieval torture devices). I was intrigued by the words in the title, they piqued an interest in me that persists today – my own mortality.
“Death Be Not Proud.” Stark. Commanding. The story of a young man living. Most thought the story was about a dying young man, but in my young, simpler mind…this man was living. We all die a little every day. I knew this already, at 11, and I wasn’t a necessarily morbid or morose child, I was just a child who dealt in facts. I cannot change facts so I have rarely raged against hard, uncontroverted facts. Some might argue this is me at 52, romanticizing my youth, siting that I raised holy hell and all 9 gates thereto, when I was sent to bed at 8:00 in the evening during the hot and humid Saturday in the summer while the sun was still fairly high on the horizon so that I could rise at what seemed like dawn on Sundays for CCD class. BUT…bedtime is NOT a fact, it is a situation. My parents may have sent me to bed at 8:00 but I would not sleep until *gasp* at least 8:20! But death…death is going to come to pass, regardless. As Jim Morrison once said “No one here gets out alive” and that is another fact that will come to pass for us all, whether gnashing of the teeth occurs or not.
“Death Be Not Proud.” A statement. Perhaps a guide to living. Death is not to be proud or arrogant. It cannot “come” for us. It simply stands still at some preordained time in the future; one that we do not consciously know, and it waits as we interminably walk toward it. We picked death before we were ever even born, if you subscribe to Platonic Philosophy, which I do, then the lives we have chosen all have the same outcome – death. It is not in the dying that the moment of life should become precious…it is in the living, each and every precious moment of it, like a rare elixir, life should be tasted, savored and made sweeter by experiences that we consciously choose.
“Death Be Not Proud” because you will come to pass in time. We will all experience death. There is no avoiding death. But living…LIVING is the experience that some will avoid from the time they are born and in that avoidance lies all the deepest shame of humanity – a squandered, precious life.
Death Be Not Proud. I will not rage against you, but when my time is near, I will not run to you with arms wide open. Instead, I will live every moment of my life eliminating negative influences, savoring experiences, huddling the masses of the positive family and friends I have cultivated, and I will dance…twirling, perhaps tap dancing, and maybe even a little pirouette…because Death, I AM proud to have lived my life fully and deliberately.