Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Noli Timere - Don't Be Afraid"


Monday as Bud was watching the news and heard mention of Seamus Heaney's funeral, he asked me if I'd heard of him. "Yes, I've heard of him", I replied. In fact I had noted his death when I read of it a few days earlier. I knew he was an Irish poet and a Nobel Prize winner for literature (1995) without knowing a lot more about him or even remembering if I had ever read any of his poetry.

That would have been the end of my even thinking about him or delving further into his life if I hadn't seen the reports of his final words: "Noli timere. Don't be afraid." There is no way of knowing exactly what he meant in that final message to his wife, but I interpret it as "don't be afraid to die." Such a positive finale sent me in search of finding out more about the man's life which I found here.

It also sent me looking for some of his poetry.  I liked Anahorish:

My 'place of clear water,'
the first hill in the world
where springs washed into
the shiny grass

and darkened cobbles
in the bed of the lane.
Anahorish, soft gradient
of consonant, vowel-meadow,

after-image of lamps
swung through the yards
on winter evenings.
With pails and barrows

those mound-dwellers
go waist-deep in mist
to break the light ice

But my favourite was Clearances, In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984. It is about his mother's death, but relates the lessons he learned from her in life. These are the lines which speak to me: "Then she was dead. The searching for a pulsebeat was abandoned and we all knew one thing by being there. The space we stood around had been emptied into us to keep, it penetrated Clearances that suddenly stood open. High cries were felled and a pure change happened. 

Was Heaney unafraid of death because of his certainty of being with his mother once again, as am I? Had she taught him that death is just a part of life as Mom showed me? Did he learn from his own stroke in 2006 the same peaceful feeling about dying I learned from my stroke earlier this year?

As I said, I wouldn't have delved deeper if not for his final words; I am so glad I did. "Don't Be Afraid" 

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