Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Did I mention that I love the cemetery?

Halloween is fun because we get to laugh in the faces of Death and Pain and Uncertainty. For one night we stare hard at our fears, tell them they're silly, and go eat some more chocolate.

But sooner or later the doorbell rings and and there they are again, uninvited. We tug on their noses, but those aren't masks anymore. Laugh at them, but this time they don't vanish. They barge in and dare us to believe that we are anything more than highly evolved worm chow.

This is the gravestone of William Wines Phelps, who wrote one of my favorite hymns, "If You Could Hie to Kolob." The inscription is an excerpt from that hymn. It is common for headstones to speak of peace and rest and the hope for future reunion. Conciliatory language. Language of compromise. Death is a decent backup plan if you simply cannot manage to stay alive.

But this hymn inscribed on Phelps's gravestone speaks not of the peacefulness and niceness and white fluffiness of the next life, but of its grandeur, intensity, vastness, excitement. It is the place to be. The beginning of the crescendo. The neverending explosion of newborn colors.

We have seen the Great Unknown, and have found it Great.

(Too Great for a postcard, whisper the dead. You'll have to come see it yourselves.)

Note: As with the rest of the hymn, the term "race" is rooted in the teachings of Joseph Smith. He spoke of all men as being "of the race of the Gods," the same doctrine that gets Mormons tossed in the "non-Christian" bin by some.


citymama1 said...

That's one of my favorite hymns as well. I love how dramatic the melody is.

Carvel said...

What an insightful, clever, and "spiritual" commentary on Halloween & death, Marie. I especially appreciate being reminded of Bro. Phelps'/ Joseph Smith's positive view of the next life. And I'm afraid if I had quoted & commented on this verse, I would have overlooked to define the meaning of "race."

Carole said...

How can this clever humorist be MY daughter, since I can only enjoy it and not create it myself? I love reading your posts and am so pleased with your sense of humor and charm. Love you.