“death be not proud” . . .
In the last week, a close friend and high school teacher colleague of my daughter’s who was fondly called “Doc 5” lingered from a dread rare type of cancer and died on Thursday, the 19th of September as the full harvest moon rose in the sky. He had been a teacher of Classics, fluent apparently, in Greek and Latin which he quoted in a “booming voice.”
Touching testimonials flew in on his CaringBridge guestbook from students near and far. One Dad wrote that he had a four-year-old daughter whom he hoped would be as lucky as he was to have had a teacher as inspiring as Doc 5. Another wrote that she was writing her Ph.D. thesis and that M. in high school had been the best teacher she had ever had. Someone also wrote that the one teacher he always came back to visit every year in person was Doc 5.
Here was a man who found his calling and carried it out, influencing circle upon circle of students year after year. He had good friends too. Loyal and true who stood by him everyday and loved him. In the end, everything seemed to come together on the day he died. He had the gift of reading letters and looking at photographs of weddings and children sent to him by former students. In a way, his was a living epiphany while he was dying. The word, epiphany is used often. But in this case, it seems particularly apropos.
Here is John Donne’s poem, “Death Be Not Proud” as acknowledgement of M.’s passing.
DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings and desperate men,
And dost with poison, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.