I wandered over to the headstone of my Grandpa Jesse Davis after Aunt Becky’s graveside service and while standing to the side of his bones (Grandma Mildred told me to not step on folks in the graveyard…it’s not respectful), I pondered his death. Born in 1901…died 1969. I commented to my contemporary fifty-something cousins, I have fifteen years left. Or forty-six years if my life-span tracks closer to Grandma Davis lying beside Jesse. Contingent upon the whirling mix of genetic longevity piped down to me through the maternal tree trunk along with how much ice cream I eat.
That sober moment led to this reflection written by John Donne. Donne’s thoughts also remind me of Mike Cope’s sermon yesterday about spiritual intubation from Romans 16 and how we sometimes can’t pray so our friends pray for us…sometimes we can’t walk and our families walk for us…sometimes we can’t breath and our church breathes for us. This sounds almost eastern mystic. “Remember we are all one-all the same.” Dalai Lama
Donne lived in Tudor and Stewart England and daily life was punctuated by the tolling of church bells noting important events including funerals. So according to Donne, no man is an island. According to the Apostle Paul and preacher Mike, we breathe and walk and pray for one another. Such a universally profound observation among 17th century and 21st century Christians…and mystics like the Dalai.. must have divine tap roots.
Donne wrote words we’ve heard all of our lives. And so I’m reading them afresh and thinking of the bones of those who have blazed an eternal trail before me. Maybe this reads best standing in the midst of a cemetery. Here is what Donne wrote:
Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.