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Thinking hopefully about death


Sunset over Wembury Bay, Plymouth. Photograph: Nick Randall/Rex Features

A minister seeking to give solace to a family gave them this meditation by William Penn:

And this is the Comfort of the Good,
that the grave cannot hold them,
and that they live as soon as they die.
For Death is no more
than a turning of us over from time to eternity.
Death, then, being the way and condition of Life,
we cannot love to live,
if we cannot bear to die.
They that love beyond the World, cannot be separated by it.
Death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can Spirits ever be divided
that love and live in the same Divine Principle,
the Root and Record of their Friendship.
If Absence be not death, neither is theirs.
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas;
they live in one another still.
For they must needs be present,
that love and live in that which is ominipresent.
In this divine glass, they see face to face;
and their converse is free as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends,
that though they may be said to die,
yet their friendship and society are,
in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
-William Penn

William Penn, the English founder of Pennsylvania (1644 - 1718), gave the gift of freedom from oppressive government to Brits and Americans. The first way he did this was by being phenomenally brave and testing the jury system. His test landed him in prison, but he established the power of juries to protect their fellow citizens from the untender mercies of government.

You might say he was a true friend of us all.

Comments (1)

My favourite last words are a) Oscar Wilde: 'It's the wallpaper or me: one of us has to go'; and b) C.S. Lewis: 'It's really rather an adventure, isn't it?' And then, of course, there was G. K. Chesterton, writing to his fiancée whose mother was dying: 'You ask me what I think about death. My thoughts about death are bright, brisk, and entertaining.'

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