Lent- Day 17: To rendezvous with Death.

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I was listening to the John F. Kennedy episode of The Washington Post’s Presidential Podcast while chopping mushrooms to go with some leftover pasta for dinner a few hours ago, and the host, Lillian Cunningham, read excerpt from one of JFK’s favorite poems. Like so much of his life, this poem is centered on death. From the Poetry Foundation:

I Have a Rendezvous with Death 


I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.


It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.


God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where Love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear …
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.



What a juxtaposition- the rebirth, newness of Spring with the utter finality of Death… and this was one of JFK’s favorites. The podcast, interestingly, discusses how death effected JFK’s life, while not actually discussing his assasination. From The Washington Post description of the episode:


Our episode instead focuses on three experiences Kennedy had with death earlier in his life, and how they shaped the man and president he would become.


The first is when he confronted his own mortality, because of his chronic health issues starting in childhood; the second is when he confronted the mortality of those close to him, with the death of his older brother; and the third is when he confronted the mortality of the wider human race, highlighted by his experiences during World War II.


John F Kennedy H

(Image Source: History.com)


JFK lived life walking in the shadow of Death; a shadow that cast its darkness on his older brother Joe, sister Kick, brother Bobby, and eventually his namesake, John Jr. You can listen to the podcast below. 




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