Death may not oblige me.

Death may not oblige me.

Daphenie Joseph
Media Staff

A lyric elegy for the mourner and the mourned 


We all know what happens to the body when it reaches the end of life. Twining telomeres unzipping, the barriers to our genetic stronghold, broken. Nervous system circuitry fizzling, vital organs failing, the heartbeat slowing to a faint whisper. It echoes the resulting ripples as the belly of a smooth stone brushes the water, once skipped by a child’s light hand. 

But I wonder what it feels like when you die. What if you were not properly prepared, even if the body deems it is so? Is it akin to a swirling snowflake careening from the sky, haphazardly graceful?  

             Down Down Down, forced further and faster by the unabating, ferocious gale of time. 

             You are heaving and trying to catch your breath, pleading to stop for only a little while. 

             So the universe relents, acquiescing to your request with a cruel irony.

             You land on rigid, unyielding concrete. 

This fall is not a hard one. The previously frozen water droplets melt into the ground effortlessly, simply.

As if you never


What will become of the ones left 

                                                                 to be? 

The ones left with longing hearts, bruised and battered? 

The ones left bereft, sans anchor? The snowstorm is taciturn as it settles. 


             Marked in the cold air          an impression of you.            Where have you gone 


             now that you have                      abandoned                       this earthly vessel? 



John 11:35 is the shortest sentence in the Bible: “Jesus wept” 

What would move the so called omnipotent, omnipresent Son of God to descend—as a heron would, elegantly sweeping the seething, foaming crest of an angry wave—into the depths of human emotion? What would move him so, to feel our grief? What would move him so, to shed his tears, awash with such fervor? 

Jonas, I imagine that Jesus wept for you as he did for Lazarus; that Jesus wept with me, gently wiping my stream of tears away on this New Year’s Day, anno domini two thousand twenty four. 

In the beginning, who would choose to accept the unexpected, the incredulous and shockingly unbelievable? It takes more courage to confront your fears face to face. 

To wallow, to languish, to refuse is easier. 

             So, was I inconsolable the first day, weeping and nestled in my father’s broad shoulders, a child once more, asking for the response to the only question that seemed to matter: Why? A question even He could not answer. Am I a fool to question a divinely ordained plan, ex nihilo? If so, let it be and leave me here. I would rather be a fool with my imagined clarity, than wise and searching for an unattainable mystery. 

             So, was I furious the second day, a restless, uncontainable, uncalculated energy buzzing at my fingertips, a ticking nuclear bomb; a viper’s venom ready to sting resting on my lips. Everything tinged with a dangerously quiet rage, selfishly sizzling embers finally set ablaze. How dare you leave us. How dare You take him from us. How dare you. 

             So, was I listless, lethargic, and waterlogged the third day. I could not hear myself scream. Well meant condolences trail in and out of our living room, but I sink and shudder knowing I did not get to tell you how profoundly I cherished the copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace you gave me on that particularly difficult Christmas. When I look upon it, I see only you. A thousand pages worn, with his | your words bleeding into my own. “Love awoke, and Life awoke” 

             So am I now, tenebrous, pale and gray. 

             My shadow grows behind me, a comforting consolation from a sympathetic sun. 

The ebony thread of my borrowed black scarf comes apart at the seams while the din of the wind drones on the wintery day his body was lowered into the ground. I will not whisper or wail. As Adam was molded from clay with the breath of life, we return you, sweet dove, to your ancestral womb, to await the covenant of rebirth and the promise of life eternal.




Jonas, if I could ask how you are doing now, I can only imagine that you’d answer, très ben eh! with that rueful yet boyish smile as you exaggerate the Québécois French. I laugh because we both know it should be bien. If you could ask how I am doing now, I leave you with this:  

                                                                                                             Death may not oblige me, 

                                                                                          I am beholden to our shared birthright, 

                                                                                                                         life and life alone. 



I relinquish you from the tethers of this world 

as a choir of angels escort you

onwards towards the next. 


                                                                                                                             Our Paradise, 

                                                                                                                                   Our Eden 

                                                                                                                                made anew. 


                                                                                                                                  all my love,