Death
The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

As you’ll see in our summer issue of The Mockingbird, Michael Malone’s Handling Sin is belatedly perched upon the book shelf here at HQ. It’s a shame the 1983 novel (even taking place in the Piedmont, for crying out loud!), took this long to find us, because not since Wilder’s Theophilus North, or Cobb’s Old Judge Priest, have I had a copy so dogeared and underlined I’ve stopped doing so halfway through. And, much like the other two, it’s incredibly summer-friendly–my pages now smell like some mixture of coastal seaweed and SPF 30–and the 700-page journey ends faster than your…

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Willem Dafoe Plays Eliphaz (in The Fault in Our Stars)

Willem Dafoe Plays Eliphaz (in The Fault in Our Stars)

Disguised as a chick flick, The Fault in Our Stars woos floods of teenage girls while simultaneously offering a startlingly honest commentary on life and death. Sure, it’s a used plot (cancer-stricken teens fall in love) and an even more used conflict (inexplicable suffering), but The Fault in Our Stars strikes up a whirlwind of important questions, which, chances are, will challenge viewers beyond their expectations. These are important questions. Questions of Joban proportions.

Because let’s face it, all the characters are there: Job, Job’s family, Job’s friends. The Fault in Our Stars, based on John Green’s bestselling novel, addresses inexplicable…

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Another Week Ends: The Age of Forgiveness, Hollywood Denials, Good Fathers, Real Time Internet, Streakers, Sister Cristina, and Summer Camp Grace

Another Week Ends: The Age of Forgiveness, Hollywood Denials, Good Fathers, Real Time Internet, Streakers, Sister Cristina, and Summer Camp Grace

1. Turns out we’ve been writing quite a bit about memory and regret these past few months. Not sure why exactly–most of the posts predate the Google fracas happening in Europe–other than it feels like a fresh way into the old story. Just last week Bryan J. highlighted a piece of commentary worth revisiting, Giles Fraser’s prediction that “the internet generation will be a lot better at forgiveness than older people”. One can’t help but admire the optimism, or rather, envy it, ht RW:

For if we are going to find it more and more difficult to forget, then we are…

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Lydia Davis Gets Ready to Die in a Plane

Lydia Davis Gets Ready to Die in a Plane

From the MacArthur Genius’ (very funny) book of daydreams, real dreams, and five-sentence memoirs, Can’t and Won’t. Recommended reading for this summer–each entry is mostly no longer than a page, many times without much of a plot–and this one talks about in-flight complications, and the anxious (even superstitious) thinking of the end of one’s life. The pilot has just made an announcement about the wings’ failure to slow the plane down, so it must circle very close to the ground to attempt to slow itself down. Davis journeys back through the way her mind processed this news.

The announcement,…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Jonah Chapter Two Verse Two

Hopelessly Devoted: Jonah Chapter Two Verse Two

This morning’s devotion comes from Peter Moore.

I called to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me… (Jonah 2:2, ESV)

There are no atheists in foxholes, as the saying goes. We turn to God when things get desperate, and we often wait until things get desperate before we do.

And just how desperate is Jonah’s condition when he calls to the Lord? Interpretations vary. On the optimistic reading, Jonah is merely in a tough spot, but things are basically OK. Like Geppetto and his wooden toy Pinocchio, he is sitting there on a tranquil raft inside the belly of the…

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Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

We all know the feeling of being in a rut: repetition temporarily dominates variation, and we’re going in circles, with routine and mundanity showing no signs of breaking. Most recently, Rust Cohle on True Detective comes to mind. His quote that “time is a flat circle” emphasizes repetitiveness, lack of progress, everything repeating and repeating – “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace”, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth puts it. What lent the air of futility to Macbeth’s time? He had a goal, a telos, or end, earlier: to become king. Once his ambition is fulfilled, there is no more movement toward…

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Sending Your Child to Summer Grief Camp

Sending Your Child to Summer Grief Camp

If your Kleenexes are collecting dust, or your heartstrings are–and you happen to have HBO–their latest documentary will take you where you need to go. It’s only 30-minutes long, but One Last Hug has the abreactive torque of an emotional 18-wheeler. It details the stories of a handful of children, and three days of their stay at Grief Camp. Camp Erin is a nationwide network of camps for children who have lost family members. It was founded by former major league baseball player Jamie Moyer, after meeting Erin through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Diagnosed with liver cancer at age 15, Erin…

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Impossible Takes a Weak

Impossible Takes a Weak

“Difficult takes a day; impossible takes a week.” -Jay Z

“My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist.” This clichéd job-interview response speaks to a wide variety of human frailties: our inability to recognize our own weakness; our inability to admit weakness to ourselves, even if we recognize it; our fear of others judging us for our weakness.

Well, I can admit it: I’m not a perfectionist. I never have been, and, frankly, I’ve never really tried. My biggest weakness is that I’m a dilettante. I’m great at getting things 80% done. I can write a first draft in minutes; I can…

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Another Week Ends: Homo Animatus and Adventure Time, Dreher Reads Dante, Eulogies (not Résumés), Smugness Is For Real, Everybody Dies, Nuremberg Chaplains, and Christian Rap

Another Week Ends: Homo Animatus and Adventure Time, Dreher Reads Dante, Eulogies (not Résumés), Smugness Is For Real, Everybody Dies, Nuremberg Chaplains, and Christian Rap

1. In TV: Game of Thrones continues with a strong fourth season, despite some controversy on Sunday as it plumbed the worst of Martin Luther’s incurvatus in se (sin as being “curved-in on oneself”) in a scene horrific even by GOT standards. In animated television, it’s recently come to our attention that Rick and Morty on Adult Swim is absolutely brilliant, ht SA, if you have a high threshold for (lots of) ribaldry. Its first season has been perhaps the most creative in recent TV memory, as a boy (Morty) is dragged along into bizarre sci-fi escapades by his grandfather (Rick), a mentally damaged man whose…

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From The Mockingbird: What Are the Side Effects of the Modern Hospital?

From The Mockingbird: What Are the Side Effects of the Modern Hospital?

We have been delighted (and humbled) to hear all the encouraging words about the first issue of The Mockingbird. If you’re without a copy, it’s not too late to place an order. We’re not biased, but we think you’ll be glad you did. In the following weeks, we’ll be publishing some of the essays from that issue on our magazine’s page, beginning with this one, from R-J Heijmen, on the art of dying in the era of the modern hospital.

While there’s no good way to enjoy a long-form read online–and as far as the look and feel of the magazine,…

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D.G. Myers on the Art of Dying

A powerful (and very Holy Week-appropriate) reflection on death came from literary critic D.G. Myers, who faces his own mortality in the throes of prostate cancer. This was originally uncovered by our friends over at The Dish.

tumblr_kvtcvdVG4q1qzkyblo1_500Dying is the problem, not death. As an Orthodox Jew, I believe with perfect faith in the resurrection of the dead, but until that happens, death is the termination of consciousness. No peeking back into life. I won’t get to keep a scorecard of who is crying at my funeral, who is dry-eyed, who never bothered to show up. If I want someone to cry at my funeral, I need to patch things up with him before the last weak images flicker out.

In the past few weeks I have been approaching ex-friends whom I have damaged to ask their forgiveness. I’ve been behaving, in short, as if dying were a twelve-step program. Step 8: “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” Step 9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Not that I mind having enemies. One person whom I approached recently accused me of “basking in self-importance,” which is one possible way, I suppose, of describing the tireless knowledge that death is near. But there are other persons, including some with whom I have had very public fallings-out, whom I don’t want as enemies when I pass away. To die without accepting responsibility for the damage I have done to relationships that were once meaningful to me would be shameful and undeniably self-important.

What We Want/What We Get: Imagination and Holy Week

What We Want/What We Get: Imagination and Holy Week

The friendly overtures of a person whom we no longer love, overtures which strike us, in our indifference to her, as excessive, would perhaps have fallen a long way short of satisfying our love. Those tender speeches, that invitation or acceptance, we think only of the pleasure which they would have given us, and not of all those speeches and meetings by which we would have wished to see them immediately followed, which we should, as likely as not, simply by our avidity for them, have precluded from ever happening. So that we can never be certain that the good…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Forty Six

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Twenty Seven Verse Forty Six

This Holy Week-inspired devotion comes from Jeff Hual.

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, NIV)

When these sorts of questions are asked, the asker is calling out from a deep place of hurt in the heart, not the head. Unfortunately, those of us who try to help answer such questions often make the mistake of trying to answer questions of suffering from the head rather than the heart.

My grandfather dying was my first experience with these sorts of questions. I was 22…

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Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Right: A Belated Memorial

Philip Seymour Hoffman Was Right: A Belated Memorial

When you work too much, you don’t experience events of life so much as you pass them by.  The dry cleaning piles up.  I need to take those shirts in; I do when I’m down to my last shirt.  Without realizing it, the only thing in my refrigerator is a carton of curdled half-and-half and some rotted vegetables.  I have some friends, I remember; I’ll catch up with them when work dies down (which it never does).  I need to refresh myself on the current events; yesterday I heard something about a lost airliner.  At the coffee shop, at two…

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“He loved them all…”  James Rebhorn and the Unanxious Life

“He loved them all…” James Rebhorn and the Unanxious Life

It appears that, before he died on Friday, actor James Rebhorn (Homeland, The Game, Seinfeld) wrote his own obituary. Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church of Jersey City, New Jersey has posted a letter entitled “His Life, According to Jim” which is dated March 2014 and signed by the actor.

This is a rare opportunity for a person who is dying: to have enough notice of one’s impending death in order to make final arrangements, including in this case the crafting of one’s own obituary. Most obituaries, in my honest opinion, are just dreadful–they’re usually written for the distraught family by a close friend, and…

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