For such a solemn day in the Christian world, it seems appropriate to focus on poems of death and resurrection. Our culture is much more removed from the "business" of death than in most of the history of mankind. In previous centuries, the rituals of death were integrated into the daily lives of people. Certainly in the United States, we have sanitized the process and relegated it to hospitals, funeral homes and churches.
Today, we commemorate the most famous death of all - the one that can be said to have changed the course of human history. Whether you are religious or not, Christian or not; the belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has profoundly impacted civilization.
Children no longer understand death to be a natural part of our life process, but are surprised and even traumatized by death. Most have not been raised on farms; many have never had a pet; some still have all those they love still present in their lives. They have not experienced the death and rebirth cycles of nature and do not understand that death and life are two sides of the same coin. For adults, it is always good to be reminded that the daily deaths we experience are the prelude to rebirth.
Today is an opportunity to begin to teach children how to understand death in a larger context outside themselves and their own experience. I've chosen one of Emily Dickinson's poems for today. As good poetry always does, its emotional impact can be felt on many levels.
Afraid? Of whom am I afraid?
Not death; for who is he?
The porter of my father's lodge
As much abasheth me.
Of life? 'T were odd I fear a thing
That comprehendeth me
In one or more existences
At Deity's decree.
Of resurrection? Is the east
Afraid to trust the morn
With her fastidious forehead?
As soon impeach my crown!