The Inevitable: “When Death Comes” by Mary Oliver
Death, a topic many struggle to realize is the inevitable. Many are sobered by the thought of an end to the life as they know it. Some are scared by the fact that today might be the last. If you look at people, many older people who have had the pleasure of living a long life seem to be ready and welcoming to the thought that death might be a new beginning. Mary Oliver, the author of “When Death Comes”, puts her view of death on paper and explains what she plans to do with her life knowing what she is headed for inevitably is the end.
In her poem, she describes death as a bear in autumn, something bigger than herself, untamed and ferocious. In her mind’s eye, death will buy her with gold coins and take her slowly and painfully “like the measle-pox.” She sees death “coming like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,” sneaking up and startling her from behind. Then she talks about being curious about what it will be like, wondering if it will be dark. Slowly it is as if she realizes she must not live life afraid and must grasp it and take nothing for granted. When she speaks of brotherhood and sisterhood she finds comfort in knowing she’s not the only one living towards an end. She realizes that time doesn’t matter any more, but what does matter is what she does, and how she lives out her life is what matters.
She sees the lives of others in field flowers, “common and singular.” When she says singular I think she is talking about how people are unique and not so much part of a whole but are living their own lives according to their own standards. She goes on to say that our names are not what make us who we are, but our actions are what define us. She sees the courage in the faces around her and sees each “as precious to the earth,” which I think the author is saying we all have a reason for existing. In the end of Mary Oliver’s poem she talks about when the end does come she wants to have been amazed by the things she has seen and experienced.
She wants to experience her life whole heartedly and she wants to look back on her life seeing a theme of “No regrets!” She finally states that she doesn’t want to come across that hungry bear in the woods and be scared or question if it the right time, she wants to be ready and feel comforted by the fact that she lived her life the best way she knew how and know somewhere she had left a mark on the world as “common and singular” as she was.