It’s sunny and 70 at Chapel Hill. I’m speaking to Project Compassion, an advocacy group for end-of-life issues, on an unlikely trinity of oxymorons—the good death, good grief and the good funeral. “What,” most people reasonably ask, “can ever be good about death or grief or funerals?” The 150 people in this room understand.
"Before I became enlightened, mountains were mountains and trees were trees.” So begins a well-known Zen Buddhist proverb that continues: “As I approached enlightenment, mountains appeared to be more than mountains and trees more than trees. Now I am enlightened; mountains are mountains and trees are trees.”
I am probably not alone in deploring both the suicide bombings carried out by young Palestinians against pathetically vulnerable Israeli civilians and the now predictable military attacks by Israel carried out against pathetically vulnerable Palestinian civilians.
Recently, I prayed for someone to die. She wasn’t an enemy. She was the beloved teenage daughter of two exceptionally fine church friends. Sarah’s frail body, once so vivacious and spry, was failing, fading away—sucked of its verve and substance by a fierce internal rapacious monster: Ewing’s sarcoma, bone cancer.