Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In Media Vita

"In the midst of life we are in death...." It's the first line of a Latin antiphon, a hymn (actually, several hymns), part of the funeral service in the Book of Common Prayer, and songs by at least two current musical groups.

The original Latin is:
Media vita in morte sumus; quem quaerimus adjutorem, nisi te Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris? Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors Salvator, amarae morti ne tradas nos.
Thomas Cranmer translated it to:
In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased? Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
This year it's beginning to seem to me that it could also be paraphrased to "in the middle of our lives we are surrounded by death."

Since the beginning of the year, nine people I know have died, two of them last week. The list includes two first-cousins-once-removed: Villette (it's a family name) died in January; and her brother Robert in August. It also includes one of my favorite authors, Barbara Mertz, who wrote fiction as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. There were two people from my generation, but the rest were the mothers of four of my friends. The mother of a fifth friend is in the hospital and is not expected to regain consciousness.

I suppose that I have reached the age where statistically my parents' generation is dying. My father would be ninety now if he hadn't died fourteen years ago. Smoking really shortened his life. So did living with a smoker; my mother died of cancer almost five years ago--after nine years of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, remission, repeat ad nauseum.

I wish that my friends didn't have to go through the pain I went through, but the death of a beloved parent is not something where they can profit from my experience. All I can tell them is that the people they loved were wonderful people, and that there is nothing wrong with missing them or with crying over their deaths. They are worth grieving over.

I believe sincerely in the resurrection of the dead and in life everlasting, as do many of my friends, but that doesn't mean that we don't miss the people who are no longer in our lives.

May they rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon them.