October 24, 2020

A Beauty Before Death

I walked through a graveyard on an October morn, and worshipped as I wandered. For the slant light illumined the rainbow of trees, each aflame with the beauty of God.

I stood speechless before so many burning bushes.

But stones also surrounded me, cold in the morning air.   Stones shaped and engraved, each marking and mourning a life now gone.

An odd juxtaposition. Beauty and life watching over, guarding ….  death stones and corpses.

I used to walk through a graveyard like a child scurrying through a field on the way to the playground.

But now I linger and wonder. Every stone a story. Each now silent.

 

I look again at the trees in their autumn finery, the contrast with the stones enlivening their glory.

And yet, these also will soon choke in the deathly grip of winter. Their leaves dropped and scattered and gone, like the minutes and days of those lying in the ground below them.

I reflect. I too…I too will soon lie down with them.

Soon? Not to be morbid. I may live two or three decades yet. Who knows? But certainly I walk in the autumn of my life.

The years have weight, and my back is stooped.

How I wish…how I wish…

Not to stop the seasons…not deny death its day. No, for I believe in the eternal spring.

I wish for something else today.

I wish and pray…that I too, like the majestic maple before me, would be beautiful and lovely before I die. That the autumn of my life would be aflame with the grandeur of the One who made me.

That there would be a beauty before death.

Is this possible…could this ever happen?

With God, what is impossible?

It will certainly not be a bodily beauty. But the beauty of a life lived with You, and for others. A life of love. Your love, flowing through me. You the branch; I the leaves.

Yes, this is my prayer as I wonder and wander amidst the gray stones, under the rainbow of leaves.

That I too may have beauty. A beauty before death.

 

Comments

  1. IF
    ‘there would be a beauty before death’,
    THEN
    for Shakespeare, was it ever the beauty made radiant through love’s eyes ?

    ” . . . and, when he shall die,
    Take him and cut him out in little stars,
    And he will make the face of heaven so fine
    That all the world will be in love with night
    And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

    “Death lies on her like an untimely frost
    Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.”

  2. “I wish and pray…that I too, like the majestic maple before me, would be beautiful and lovely before I die. That the autumn of my life would be aflame with the grandeur of the One who made me.”

    So much this. I’m a few years older than you CM and this post speaks for me. The photographs are beautiful.

  3. I’m not entirely sure Sara Teasdale’s poem “Moon’s Ending” strikes all the same notes as does Chaplain Mike’s reverie, but beauty before death is the theme as well:

    Moon, worn thin to the width of a quill,
    In the dawn clouds flying,
    How good to go, light into light, and still
    Giving light, dying.

  4. Burro (Mule) says

    Forgive me for attempting to add to your beautiful meditation, CM, but there was something I read in one of Owen Barfield’s books about the beauty of autumn being the beauty of Return. It was Barfield’s, and I believe the idea proceeds from Rudolph Steiner before him, that a spiritual force descends into the vegetable world every spring to prepare it for the arduous duty of photosynthesis. Of course, this photosynthesis is the foundation of all energy transfer in the wet web we call terrestrial life, and we could be Calvinists or Orthodox or socialists or nationalists for approximately how long? without it.

    When the light grows dim and the Daystar recedes, this force returns to where it came from, and the true colors of the leaves is revealed to be all Flame. i wish I could reference the passage. Barfield is far more poetic than I. And I wish he could dispense with Steiner, who severely creeps me out with his talk of the Solar Christ and Atlantean souls. Nevertheless, if I had never read Barfield I would never have noticed that the active ingredient of the sativa plant, that chemical that so delights our primate limbic system, is the sexual frustration of its female plants.

    There is always more under the hood than immediately meets the eye.

  5. ‘BUT IN YOUR PERISHING
    YOU WILL SHINE BRIGHTLY . . . ‘

    ” . . . . to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all the other tribes. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

    But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and the red man.

    That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket ? Gone. Where is the eagle ? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.””

    (from Chief Seattle’s letter)

    https://www.redlineartworks.org/section718887.html#:~:text=Contaminate%20your%20bed%2C%20and%20you,land%20and%20the%20red%20man.

  6. Note from CM: Several of you have misidentified me as the author of this post. These words and photos are Pastor Dan’s contributions, and they are wonderful. Give him due credit!

  7. You folks upstream of this comment who mentioned CM (Chaplain Mike) are not careful readers. This beautiful post was written and put together by Daniel Jepsen.

  8. Wonderful post, Daniel. Very rich. Deep. Poignant. Well done!

  9. Internet Monk speaks eloquently to this culture concerning death. This post and CM’s post on autumn leaves will be tacked onto my local senior center billboard if permission granted.

    • Internet Monk materials are public and available for that kind of use, T.S., unless we are quoting from other sources that require permission.

      Unless Dan objects, no problem.

      • Daniel Jepsen says

        All good

        • I might like a phrase for some song lyrics if that’s ok.
          “ wish and pray…that I too, like the majestic maple before me, would be beautiful and lovely before I die. That the autumn of my life would be aflame with the grandeur of the One who made me.”
          I’d like to try to adapt that to a song if it’s in me to do it. I’m working on an album that I want to have done by December. Not sure how many more songs will be on it but that would be a great theme.

  10. Daniel Jepsen, so glad I peeked in today and caught this wonderful post of yours. As T.S. Gay noted above I have learned a lot about the grieving process, leaving this world, comforting those in mourning from I Monk, especially from you and Chaplin Mike. I have tried to store the thoughts and wisdom that you two have shared thought your life experience and vocation. The commenters are very well informed and on target when the subject touches on the issues mentioned above. I did always enjoy when when you did the Saturday Brunch thing. I hope and pray all is well with you and your family. When you and CM post on this subject I am usually comforted. To both you and CM on this issue , I believe you both know of what you speak. God Bless.

  11. colors come and
    go, the old maple
    sheds its leaves

  12. Daniel Jepsen says

    Dan, thanks so much for your kind words.