De Morte Magnorum, or On the Death of the Great

The List for the Year of our Lord MMXVI is tiresomely long. So long that I shall not endeavour to link to all the notable Deaths of this annum. CBS News has a depressingly long Show of Slides to fill that void. Some have, of course, hit me harder than Others. I was not a Devotee of Many of the Musicians or Personalities – a Few were integral to my Maturation. Linking to Articles confirming their Deaths is proving too sad for me to attempt. And, in addition to the Passings, there were some other Events.

I was asked, however, just now, whether I have a Need to grieve for All of this. I found within a surprising Answer, perhaps belied by my Unwillingness to read yet further Confirmation of this Year’s many noteworthy Departures. Even so, I say – I need not grieve these Passings – I must, instead, turn them to good Account. So many Voids are left in our Culture, our Politics, our Society, our Music, our Art. Indeed, we must mourn and weep and lament…and then we must busily engage ourselves upon filling those Gaps.

Even as I wrote, the Scripture came to me, a favorite Pericope of mine from the Second Book of the Kings, the Ninth Chapter, the Fourth through the Eighteenth Verses. Listen for God’s Word to you.

Again Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee: for the Lord hath sent me to Jericho. But he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho.

And the children of the Prophets that were at Jericho, came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou, that the Lord will take thy master from thine head this day? And he said, Yea, I know it: hold ye your peace.

Moreover Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here: for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan. But he said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went both together.

And fifty men of the sons of the Prophets went and stood on the other side a far off, and they two stood by Jordan.

Then Elijah took his cloak, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, and they twain went over on the dry land.

Now when they were passed over, Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee before I be taken from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let thy Spirit be double upon me.

10 And he said, Thou hast asked an hard thing: yet if thou see me when I am taken from thee, thou shalt have it so: and if not, it shall not be.

11 And as they went walking and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and did separate them twain. So Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof: and he saw him no more: and he took his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

13 He took up also the cloak of Elijah, that fell from him, and returned, and stood by the bank of Jordan.

14 After, he took the cloak of Elijah, that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? And so he also, after he had stricken the waters, so that they were divided this way and that way, went over, even Elisha.

15 And when the children of the Prophets, which were at Jericho, saw him on the other side, they said, The Spirit of Elijah doeth rest on Elisha: and they came to meet him, and fell to the ground before him,

16 And said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men: let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master, if so be the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. But he said, Ye shall not send.

17 Yet they were instant upon him, till he was ashamed: wherefore he said, Send. So they sent fifty men, which sought three days, but found him not.

18 Therefore they returned to him, (for he tarried at Jericho) and he said unto them, Did not I say unto you, Go not?

The Word of the Lord.

What, then, should we say, as we read these Words and consider the Dead among the Great and the Good of our World? I have grown weary of the quoted Lyric and the clever Photoshop. What instead shall we say of this Year, its Bounty of Death, and the Singers and Writers and Actors and Leaders who have breathed their last upon this Earth? Shall we go, like the Company of Prophets, and seek them out in the Mountains and the Valleys? Yes, we shall rend our clothes and weep. But what then? 

The Man of God, Inheritor of twice the Spirit of the One who came before, Luke Skywalker to the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Elijah, has here the right of it. He knew, as even the Company of Prophets knew, that his Master would be taken from him. He knew that he had the chance to claim the Inspiration of Elijah. And he knew that, once taken, his Master would be fone from his Side, forever.

Mourn and lament and weep we shall, but Fisher and Wilder will never again grace the Silver Screen. We shall never hear anew of Bowie’s Voice, or Cohen’s Words. We shall never see another Punch from Ali, or watch Glenn float among the Stars. The Wisdom and Leadership, whatever you may think of the Content, of Peres, Scalia, Castro, Boutros-Ghali, and Reno is gone from the Face of the Earth. We may seek on the Hilltops, but we shall not find them – we may search the low Places, but they are gone – they and so many more.

With what then, are we left…except that which they leave behind? Their Films, and Words, and Songs, and Deeds remain among us – and so do we. We are yet here, we yet endure, we who remember and were transformed. Transformed we were – and we bear the Responsibility of that Transformation.

Let Bowie and Michael remind us to judge not, and that our Brothers and Sisters remain more like us than different. Let Fisher and Wilder remind us of Wonder, and of Laughter, and of Strength. Let Peres, Scalia, Castro, Boutros-Ghali and Reno and many more remind us of Humility, and that we have work yet to do in our World to bring about Reconciliation. Let Glenn and Ali remind us of Courage, in the Face of the Adversity of the Children of Earth and the Dangers of the Frontiers. Let us be reminded of Grace and Curiousity and Music and Joy as we think on those we have lost.

For it is up to us, now. This year has drained the Bench of so much Talent and Thought and Experience and Peace, that we cannot help but shoulder the Burden. It lies on our Backs, now, the Duty to improve, and enlighten, and inspire, and lead. We cannot rely on our Forebears to do it for us, for they are now Dust. We yet live – and we yet have a World to serve.

This, then, is my Prayer – that having watched these honored Dead be taken up, we shall inherit a double Portion of their Spirit, and that we, too, shall have the Power to change a Mind, even as our Minds were changed.

Requiescat in pace, Sorores Fratresque. We shall carry on.

PS – I am full aware that I have left so many Names off of this Listing – Rickman and Glass especially weigh upon me. My Point yet stands, but feel not weary if I have missed your most impactful Death – there were, I fear, too many to include them all.

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