Rest in Peace
Donald P. Goodman III
We put him in the ground, and there he ever lies; but rest? No, he decays until he is no more. I held him when he breath'd his last and clos'd his eyes; I laid his lifeless body down upon the floor. I press'd down on his chest, and tried to give him breath; I saw his arms flop 'round, with neither life nor thought; I heard the air come out again; he groan'd in death; his eyes were wide but blank, his mind now holding naught. They lifted up his body; his limbs flop and bend like lifeless things; and then, we to this hole him brought. So to what sort of rest do we this man now send? To what this hunk of meat and bone we cannot mend?
Is this the end of all our struggle and our strife, just planted in the dirt to rot, a sterile seed? When we have walk'd the rocky road of earthly life, is it our fate the maggots and the worms to feed? These eyes which once beheld the beauty of the earth, now clos'd and blacken'd, sunken back into the head; this tongue which once spoke words of honesty and worth, now crawling with the vermin, first fruits of the dead? These arms which once held wife in love, now stripp'd to bone; those legs which once bore child about, now still as lead; is it our fate to so decay, dead and alone? to rot, forgotten, underneath a mark of stone?
Long days of labor, struggling for his daily bread; his oft-unnoticed efforts keeping house and home; those times when he, in misery, to heaven plead; were all just to give fertilizer to the loam? Why, then, should we this miserable life endure, when at the end there's nothing but decay and death? If all our efforts end like so much cur'd manure, then why should any one of us draw further breath? We put him in the ground; will he there ever lie? Is there a rest for him beyond his body's death? Does life produce but feasts the worms to satisfy? Must tomb our sorrows and our joys e'er nullify?
Oh, no! The Reaper's scythe is dull, its handle short, the cold touch of his finger need not terrify; his call, though often hard to heed, has no import; no longer need we dread that call with fear and cry. For though that blade still pierces us with sad and pain, and though we suffer who he does not lead away, the better part of what we are will e'er remain, although our hearts and hands will ere long all decay. Why fear a weapon which but makes us garments shed, a robber who soon yields what he can take today? The tomb can hold the body, but can't keep the dead; we'll rest in peace, but not in dirt, whom heaven's fed.