The Woods of the Shadow of Death

In Humanities 101, we memorized John Donne's Holy Sonnet X.  I no longer can quote the whole thing, yet I often find the opening and closing lines running through my mind.

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.
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Audrey Assad has done a beautiful musical adaptation of this poem.  It's utterly appropriate right now. 

This year has brought the death of several dear saints, and while I rejoice for them ending their races well, I mourn for our loss. 

Saturday (morning in the US, evening in China) brought the horrific news of a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  While shootings in America have become a sickeningly common occurrence in my own living memory, there's something especially awful to me about this one, happening in the region that I claim as home.  (Ironically, this week in classes we're talking about our hometowns.  And tonight -- like so often -- conversations about wanting to travel to America turn to students expressing their fears about gun violence in the US.  Usually I tell them not to listen to the media hype, but tonight I had nothing to say.)

(pc: Jason)
Last night I went to watch some classes that I taught last year take part in a competition.  I glanced back from my seat and saw James waving frantically at me -- he was the monitor of my "Fight Club" class, and stands out as being one of the sweetest and funniest students I've had the privilege of teaching.  I hadn't seen him in a while, so I waved back, and then texted him when I realized that he wasn't participating in his class's performance.  You're not dancing?? I asked, and got back a series of messages from him explaining that he had emergency surgery last week after going to the hospital for what he thought was a minor sickness.  My heart ached for the rest of the evening -- I love my students so much and it feels like a stab in my heart each time one of them gets hurt or involved in a dangerous situation.  I can't keep them safe; they are so jubilantly vivacious and so hauntingly fragile.

(James is the one in red)
This afternoon I looked at news online and saw the headline that a flight from Indonesia had crashed with 189 people aboard.  The name of the airline looked familiar -- of course, because I flew on one of their planes last year going to Thailand.

My soul hurts.  At this point I just want to listen to For King & Country's cover of Out of the Woods on repeat, because sometimes the woods feel endless. 

Yet I look forward to the day when we will really be out of the woods, in the clear, when it will be apparent that Death is not mighty and dreadful, but thoroughly conquered.


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