My column at First Things is not meant to rile anyone, but I am sure some will be riled and for that I am sorry:
At the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Robert Kennedy—finding kinship with a doomed heroine of fiction—referenced the loss of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, by quoting Shakespeare’s Juliet:
When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.
During the wake and funeral of my own beloved brother, that imagery kept bubbling up through my awareness, and it comforted me. I thought the lines struck a keen balance, expressing love, transcendence, and a kind of optimism in the assurances of a twinkling eternity. Because we know we will never be in love with night, Juliet’s fancy brings a great depth of human feeling right up to the precipice of sentimental overreach, but—pretty consolations aside—do not send it over the ledge, and into a crashing descent of self-indulgence wallowing.
As I watched the 9/11 Memorial Service at Ground Zero, I couldn’t help wondering—a decade after that unprecedented attack—are we holding too closely to our grief, allowing ourselves to entertain it beyond a point that is healthy—and in danger of falling in love with the dark?
Meanwhile, over on the portal landing page, Tim Muldoon looks at Remembering the dead, as an act of faith
There is something of God in our ability to remember the dead. Memory serves very little evolutionary purpose, save perhaps the function of knowing which species might prove a danger to human life. But memory of the dead is of an altogether different category, and is the most ancient and yet still most contemporary dimension of our religious imagination: that is, the root of our wondering about the meaning of life, the possibility of life after death, and the possibility that there are good and evil in the world.
UPDATED: This had to hurt