Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
#52WeeksA4A leads me down a road I’d rather not take. But I will. After the passing of my friend and doula, Erica Shea, I picked up Death be not Proud, by John Gunther. I almost reread it for the countless time, but my heart knew what my hands did not… and it forced my fingers to pry open and put the book down. I’ve since packed it away, prepared for it’s place in our new home- carefully placed between my favorite books on the shelf- but not for its reading again. Not yet.
This week is the second book post for the blog challenge, and I knew I would write about it. Sadly, I didn’t read much off my book list due to listing and selling our house, but I will. I promise myself. I have time to make such promises. John Gunther, Jr. did not. Which is what John Gunther writes about in Death be not Proud.
I first read the book a year or so after the passing of my father. I’m sure my mother tried to stop me, but, similar to me now, once I put my mind to something, I tend to avoid hearing “no”. So I read it. Through tears and ache, I read the true story of Johnny. The diagnosis of a brain tumor and subsequent death. How John Gunther watched his son die at the age of 17, 2 weeks after his high school graduation. I read about how Johnny never gave up, still pursued knowledge. I read about the damage cancer causes a family… something I am keenly aware of after the death of my 18 year old cousin and my Dad.
I have read Death be not Proud at least 10 times in my life. I used to read it every year since my father’s passing, but I found it wore me down. Sometimes I pick it up and read a few pages at a time… it reminds me that one diagnosis, one set back, no matter what it is, cannot define us. It cannot overtake us, unless we let it. I’ve used it to help me battle depression, loss, and even to ground me in times when I’ve lost sight of the important things in life.
Something about Death be not Proud is fate for me. John Gunther, Jr. passed in 1947 and the book was published in 1949. Both of those years are significant for me. It also shocked me that John was able to write this book just 2 years after his son’s passing. There is a strength parents have and that only a cathartic process can bring, that we don’t know until we’re in the throes. Death be not Proud should be read by everyone- for the love of family, for the power to overcome, for the knowledge of what we have.
Death had nothing to be proud of in Johnny’s case.
What is one book you think everyone needs to read? Why?
Link your #52WeeksA4A blog challenge below.