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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Every Man's Death Diminishes...But A Friend Even More

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" John Donne Meditation XVII (see link above for full text) and here for the book form.

Recently I lost a friend who I knew for over 20 years. Even though we weren't close in distance for a long time, a few months before his death we got in touch through Facebook. He posted his last message to me three days before his passing. Interestingly enough, I had been thinking and talking to my son about the influence he had in my life the weekend before. I don't believe it was chance. What John Donne wrote centuries ago comes true. We are not an island ourselves. We don't live in isolation. We are only a part and so is everyone else. Thus, when we lose someone through death it also affects us. It "diminishes" us in some way. We are not the same, we never will. It also reminds us of our own mortality. When John Donne wrote the Meditation, he was close to death, and likely sent people to ring the bell announcing his death. He survived his sickness but he became aware that the when bells of the church sound when a person dies, it is for us. We are mortal beings, books that won't disappear, but will be changed into a better translation. But until then, we live our lives with the recognition that we are interconnected and anyone's death affect us and changes us for ever.
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