A Tale of Different Funerals

There’s a great old Twilight Zone episode (“Elegy”) in which future astronauts crash land on an asteroid that seems very much like earth. They look for help in a town—only to find all the people frozen in different tableaus: an unattractive woman winning a beauty contest, a man celebrating his election as mayor, etc. Continue Reading »

The Serpent Bites the Dust

The sequence of three speeches of God in Genesis 3:14-19 (to the serpent, the woman, and the man) illustrates biblical justice, which is to say a justice that does more than punish ; it sets things right and corrects what is wrong. The sequence begins with the only curse God directs at a living . . . . Continue Reading »

The Secret of the Self

Consider the obituary column in your local newspaper—not the obituary of anyone famous but just an ordinary obituary of an ordinary person from an ordinary place. Consider it first as a surviving family member or friend, the one who has to gather the information for the obituary and select . . . . Continue Reading »

Born Toward Dying

We are born to die. Not that death is the purpose of our being born, but we are born toward death, and in each of our lives the work of dying is already underway. The work of dying well is, in largest part, the work of living well. Most of us are at ease in discussing what makes for a good life, . . . . Continue Reading »

Mortality: The Measure of Our Days

Men must endure Their going hence, even as their coming hither; Ripeness is all.  —King Lear For much of human history death was associated at least as much with infancy and youth as with old age. To live to be old was an achievement—a modest victory over death, and one often . . . . Continue Reading »

Root Cellar

Moving in the cool cellar gloom Among the dusty bulbs and withered tubers Of last year’s old dispensation, I marveled at their mummy masquerade: Dry as death, their brittle skin flaking Under my curious fingers, there they lay. Half-burnt embers of a secret . . . . Continue Reading »

Scene From a Living Room

In that house of quiet dying, through still sheers that turn the day to gray, only two chairs of six are sat upon, the bed no longer shared. She smiles, a 5 x 10 on the television top, he laughs, a young man upon the mantle. But, air unmoving from dining room to kitchen old woman watches TV alone, . . . . Continue Reading »

Binx and the Malaise

I heard the news in late May as I was walking into the Sno-White Cafe here in Pine Bluff, Ark. Walker Percy died, Roger Coley told me. Roger is a Mississippi boy who’s now design editor at the Pine Bluff Commercial. Newspapers have titles like Design Editor these days. He stopped in front of the . . . . Continue Reading »

Forward to the Seventies

As I write these words, it is exactly one week before my seventieth birthday”“the days of our years,” according to the Psalmist; the day “the warranty runs out,” according to a friend of mine. Today is also the twenty-fourth anniversary of my father’s death, four months and ten days . . . . Continue Reading »