Curtis Dahlgren
"The winter of our despair?" (re Death, Taxes, and "Finality")
By Curtis Dahlgren
December 4, 2014

NO WARMTH, no ease,
No butterflies, no bees;
No birds, November . . .

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm . . .

The God of love my Shepherd is.
Methought I heard one calling "Child";
And I replied, "My Lord" . . .

Sweet Spirit, comfort me!
Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

WHAT, you may ask, brought that all up? Well, due to the nasty weather we've been having, a local family lost three children – 14 and under – in a traffic crash. In a small religious community such as this, that's a tragedy of almost Edmund Fitzgerald proportions! The words above are from a letter I wrote to the editor of our local weekly.

Those are the combined words of Hood (1799- ), Cowper (1731- ), Herbert (1593- ), and Herrick (1591- ). I'm emphasizing the importance of their birth in comparison to the year of their death on purpose. As Elbert Hubbard said, "Babies are the dice of destiny" and these four dweebs (Dead White English Boys) left behind many words that were destined to be preserved for centuries. The best books are the old books, and good prose beats Prozac.

Someone said that our lives are just "a dash between the years," so if that's the case, we need to run the good race to WIN it.

"Life's not a paragraph, I think, and death is not a parenthesis." – E.E. Cummings (1894-1962)

Another thing that brought the subject to mind is that National Public Radio says that Americans view death "negatively" [as opposed to 100 years ago when we were more religious, I might add]. In the 1960s my foreman went to his grandfather's funeral and I asked him how it was. He said it was very hard – "the finality of it."

I think I told him that I don't believe in "finality" (if I didn't say that, I should have). As a boy, I attended countless Protestant funerals (my mother came from a large family) and I seldom heard a discouraging word. The minister was all but spiking the football for the deceased, and we could hardly wait to get to the treats at the pot-luck afterwards. As I near my mid-70s now, I'm just beginning to sense "the last enemy" lurking behind us.

I like Satchel Paige's "Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you." My version of that one is "Never look back unless there's a runner on second base." With ol' Satch on the mound, it wasn't easy to get on second base, of course, but I'm beginning to pretend that I AM the guy on second base. I played a lot of hardball, and twice in my life I scored on a pair of two-base errors – first in 1971 and then in 2001 (in an old-timers game).

Anyway, I visualize Satchel on the mound, myself getting a good lead off second base, and Jesus Alou at the plate. Satch goes into his windup and Jesus gives me a wink.


P.S. The whole world is filled with tragedies that go almost unreported (no wonder I have high blood pressure):

- 17,000 killed in Nigeria's "civil" war ("peaceful" Islamists versus Christians – who are half of the population)

- over 200,000 killed in Syria's "civil" war

- "Arab spring" aftermath still festering in the North African caliphate

- anarchy in Somalia and Kenya and other parts of the world

- a shooting war in Ukraine

- Red-line deadline ignored by Iran

- North Korea working on "delivery system" for nuclear warheads

- Ebola in western Africa (and the U.S.?)

- the Plague making attempted comeback elsewhere

- Hostage taking, rapes, and beheadings by IS (Islamic State)

- Israel, threatened by everyone from the Left Coast to the West Bank

AND ALL THE MEDIA TALK ABOUT IS A SUBURB OF ST. LOUIS OR THE NFL? As distractions go, I like sports as much as anyone, but the trouble with society is that people take politics as if it were a game, and football as if it were really important stuff! It ought to be the other way around (Nature abhors a vacuum, you know).

In the Winter of our Discontent, are you going to hibernate on the couch in front of your TV (watching "Survivor" and other trash)? Or what?

PPS: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for the victims and "survivors" of all those 'CIVIL WARS.' If possible, send help.

"O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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