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Monday, May 15th, 2023

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


 I just had a birthday. My 83rd. No, no, no, I’m not looking for any more congratulations. Like most of you who are on social media, I’ve been overwhelmed with good wishes. Yes, I do have to realize that I’m not going to live forever. So like anyone else reaching my age, I want to be realistic about setting urgencies.

 Do I think about death?  Let me quote Shakespeare. In the “The Tempest,” the bard’s last play, his character Prospero is asked in the last line of the last speech, “How often do you think about death?”  Prospero answers: “Every third thought.”  My response to Prospero and Shakespeare?  Bunk.  I never think about death.

I do update my will from time to time.  And yes, a few years back, I wrote a memo to my family giving suggestions about what kind of funeral I would like to have. Oh and no, it’s not nearly as detailed as my Mother’s.  Bless her soul, she planned every detail of her funeral, right down to the kind of cookies she wanted at her funeral reception.

 Two things keep me engaged about the end of life.  First of all, I have given a number of eulogies in recent years. Too many.  I have stood by gravesites and offered tributes and reflections of my father and mother, my brother, two brother-in-laws, and a number of friends as well as rock and roller Jerry Lee Lewis, my first legal client when I moved to Ferriday.  When I was a Senator back in the 70s, and for many years thereafter during the time I was in public office, I was asked by a number of ministers, both black and white, to share thoughts about one of their parishioners. Maybe I knew them well, maybe I didn’t. But I never turned down a request to offer thoughts about someone hopefully on their way to an afterlife.

The second reason I stay engaged with the end of life, and maybe this does come with growing older, I’m trying to carve a path to determine my own thoughts about an afterlife.  I was baptized in the Pentecostal church, joined my family during my teenage years in attending the Presbyterian Church, married the first time in the Catholic Church, and a second time in the Episcopal Church.  And I’ll bet you do not know that I have even preached a bit.  That’s right.  Preacher Brown.

My family and I have been going to the North Carolina mountains for a number of years. The All Saints Episcopal church is located in the small village of Linville, quite close to our family home.  The church is open in the summertime when there are many tourists in the area but closed up the rest of the year.  But the doors are always left open, so I continue to attend alone each Sunday for time to read and meditate.  After a few Sundays alone, I missed the sermons and the singing.  So why not just do it myself? After all, there was no one there to oppose me and I do have a good gift for gab, even on religious issues.

Instead of just sitting there meditating each Sunday morning, Preacher Brown took to the pulpit with no one else in the church, spoke up about Biblical references the related to him (that’s me of course), and then burst out in hymns that have been with me for many years. “Let the Circle be Unbroken,” “I’ll fly away,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” and of course a hymn that everyone knows, “Amazing Grace.”  They were quite lively services if I do say so myself.

 What I’m trying to say is that we cannot ignore death, and we all hope for an afterlife.  It is certainly OK to plan for the sake of one’s family.  But I’m not going to set around like the Shakespeare character, thinking about death. I would hope it is much more productive for all of us to make the most of our current state in life.  Play the cards we are delt. Then anticipate a lingering good life.  That should pertain to all of us. Even if you are 83, like me.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also listen to his regular podcast at www.datelinelouisiana.com.





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