Tag Archives: life and death


The black swallowtail sat so still that I thought perhaps she was dead, but when I approached she fluttered away. Watching her weave through the great-grandfather of a camphor tree that dominates the yard, I fretted. My husband has a bird feeder, and birds were everywhere, and I didn’t want to witness an assault. Once, I opened my front door and saw a bird after a butterfly. It was a grim struggle, the small butterfly moving here and there, the much bigger bird intent and echoing every move. Life and death played out among my front trees. How frivolous butterflies are, such a flash of creativity by the Unseen, the way flowers are. How practical and ugly they might have been manufactured in order to fit into the intricate ladder of nature; instead they’re silk-winged dancers en pointe until the day they die.

Are we a flash of creativity by the Unseen? Why do we forget to unfurl our wings? What do you think?


Do whatever leads to joy, dead friends advise Marie Howe in My Dead Friends. As a woman of a certain age who just attended an unexpected funeral of someone I once loved much, I say, yeah, that’s the way to do it….now. When I was younger there was time to grieve, to make up might-have-beens, to question and twist and wring the life out of sad events. But now I’m going to say good-bye more and more, until folks say good-bye to me. That means my interactions with others need to be precise, ones of small joys, of service, of meaning, so that when they or I leave unexpectedly, the fare thee well, although perhaps unsaid, is an implicit I loved you, I’m glad you were in my life, giving life with all its great unknowns and mystery a moment of prayer, a forehead to the floor bow which says, thank you. There are no grand promises in this life we lead, except that we will die, and I like to remember  Khalil Gibran’s quote that perhaps a funeral among men is a wedding feast among angels. It’s all a matter of perspective.

What’s your perspective? What are you waiting for?

And here’s the poem for you to enjoy, and if you don’t subscrbe to The Writer’s Almanac, it won’t be because I didn’t tell you to….do it…..



Feb. 25, 2012


My Dead Friends

by Marie Howe

I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,

to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy’s ashes were —
it’s green in there, a green vase,

and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy’s already gone through the frightening door,

whatever he says I’ll do.