Harry Potter and Memento Mori

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By No machine-readable author provided. Kirtap assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1713143

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter books or movies like I am, you probably remember the Tale of the Three Brothers from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

 

Most Potterheads know that this fairy tale foretold the Deathly Hallows, which served as the MacGuffins in the book. I’m not sure if this was JK Rowling’s intention, but the fairy tale is more than just a plot device. It actually teaches a moral, as all fairy tales do. The moral of this particular tale is that we don’t have to be afraid of death, but we should still acknowledge that it exists. In other words, it’s a tale of memento mori.

In the context of the Potter-verse, the Elder Wand was created by Antioch Peverell, who used the wand to kill a rival wizard, boasted of the wand’s powers after winning the duel, and was murdered in his sleep shortly afterwards. To me, this represents people who act without thinking of the consequences. The people who live and breathe by YOLO, entitled and presumptuous.

The second brother, Cadmus Peverell, was described as an arrogant man who used the Resurrection Stone to recall the woman he hoped to marry back from the dead. The problem was that she suffered, living an incomplete life because she truly belong in the mortal world. This inability to connect with his love drove Cadmus mad with hopeless longing and he killed himself. There are many people who see death as a permanent end, unable to properly grieve their losses.

The third brother, Ignotus Peverell, was described as a humble and wise man. In the fairy tale, Death searched for Ignotus for many years, unable to find him. The Invisibility Cloak was handed down to his son when Ignotus reached old age. I love the way that the story ends: “He greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.”

Not much is known about Ignotus Peverell aside from the fact that he created the Invisibility Cloak. However, his approach to death is a wise and sobering one. He did not see himself as more powerful than death nor was he consumed by past losses. Instead, death became a friend, an equal. Because death isn’t the end.

TV Tropes summarized the moral of this story best: “If you are unable to accept the futility of escaping death or are unable to accept the death of a loved one, death will be your greatest enemy. However, if you instead accept death as the inevitable and move on with your life, he will greet you as an old friend.”

#mementomori

 

Their Last Days (Poem-A-Day Challenge Day 13)

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Prompt: Last

 

When my grade school teacher talked about death,
she contemplated judgment
Standing in front of a three way mirror
that reflected the state of her soul.
About two years later,
she died in an accident
driving on an icy road.

Whenever someone took their own life,
I contemplated hell.
Most of those victims kept their struggles hidden.
Their hearts eternally separated from hope
Completely shut down from everything
It’s never a good day to die
because they always leave hurt behind.

Something I learned from those who die of old age
is that more often than not, they wait for it.
They can see death coming at some point
My professor knew after a couple of falls.
My grandmother waited ten years after my grandpa.
Cancer patients find out through doctors
But it was never in their control.

There’s a strange timing to death.
To those who wait for its arrival,
it arrives at just the right time.
Their last days inevitable in hindsight
In the present moment, though,
it’s never convenient.
It’s always sudden.

Dear Saint Peregrine…

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So many people have been passing away from cancer this week. I wish it could stop.

Death has been constantly on my mind ever since I first lost somebody I loved. It was their time, I know, but it hurt me because that person mattered to me. I have people in my life who are growing old and I wonder when their time will come. I wonder about Pope Benedict. My heart broke when I saw him walking through the Doors of Mercy with an assistant at his side.

I’ve never seen a dead body. I’ve lost people in the past, but it always happened at a distance until I got older. It’s never easy to understand. It’s always sudden. And it’s always painful.

To paraphrase this monologue from a show I watch: “I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s- There’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid. It’s mortal and stupid. And-and people are crying and not talking, and-and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, they will never have any more fruit punch ever, and they’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush their hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.”

What hurts more is when people lack empathy when I try to make sense out of the senselessness of death, bringing to mind how millions of starving children in Africa are dying everyday. That lack of empathy hurts.

It doesn’t matter to me that I never knew these people and that they never knew me. These are people whose light shined into others’ lives. Somebody out there has just lost a husband, a father, a son, a mother, a daughter, a wife. Even though the people who have been dying this week have been as distant to me as the stars in the sky, the light from these people shined into my life. And now their stars have gone out.

Saint Peregrine, pray for the souls of everyone who has passed away from cancer this week. May God’s perpetual light shine upon them. And may we all try to make sense out of this senseless death with empathy and compassion.

Cirque D'Etoiles: A Spoken Word Poem

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All things tend towards chaos

Life is the tightrope we walk to avoid it

Suddenly

Unexpectedly

Death arrives like the ricochet from a cannon’s blast

Throwing everything off-kilter

Down into the black without a safety net

Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints

Every life shines and fades as quickly as a meteorite in the sky

Millions of meteorites fall everyday,

yet supernovas are the ones that shake us up

We can understand the death of an old, worn out star

Yet when other stars die out, especially in quick succession,

it throws the universe off-balance

more than the deaths of little comets and meteorites

Is it just the succession?

The confusing juxtaposition between the end of one life

and the continuation of another?

The stars are supposed to be constant

yet they fall and they fade and they die

and nobody understands,

nobody explains why.

Maybe it’s not the fault in our stars

that throws us off our tightropes

Maybe each supernova

reminds us that we’re each a little infinity

and some infinities are bigger than other infinities

Stars fall and fade and die

but each supernova gives birth to something new

With each piece from the fallen stars,

we create an order out of the chaos

embracing the infinite

No safety net is needed

because our hearts are our wings

Love, the fuel that propels us to fly

You can take the stars out of the sky

but you can never take the sky itself

With love, we send a kiss out to the stars

Creating tiny pieces of light that shine in the dark

 

Retelling the Story: Dealing with Grief 2 Years Later

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Grief takes on different natures as time goes on. When I lost Fr. Keon two years ago, I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with things. Now, in honor of his talent at telling tall tales, I’m going to write a short fictionalized version of how I met Fr. Keon and how I said goodbye to him.

It began on a rainy afternoon in New York City. I was at my usual bus stop, waiting for the 7PM bus to take me back to my apartment in the Bronx. An old man sat next to me, reading Virginia Woolf’s Room With A View. As the bus came, I saw that he left his book on the bench as he went to get onto the bus. It was only 6:30, but I didn’t care. I grabbed the book and ran on the bus, chasing after him. I found him sitting at a window seat.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said after paying my bus fare. “You forgot your book.”

He looked up at me and smiled. I had to wonder how old this guy was. What was he doing out in the city so late? “Oh, thank you, miss. Would you care to sit down?”

I nodded and sat down next to him, putting my backpack in front of me. He took the book and put it in his lap.

“I don’t usually see you on this bus route,” I said. “What were you doing at Fordham University?”

“I used to teach there,” he said. “I was visiting some friends.”

“Oh cool!” I said. “I’m a student there right now. I take classes in the Manhattan campus but I live over in the Bronx.”

“What do you study?” he asked.

“I’m a theatre student. It’s a New York cliche, I know, but I want to make it big on Broadway someday.”

“Oh I love Broadway. I always see the latest plays.”

“But the tickets are so expensive.”

“Not if you have a press pass.” He took out his wallet and showed his old ID from the New York Times.

“You wrote for the Times?”

“Published a couple books, too,” he said. “You might recognize my articles from the op-ed section and editorials. I’m Fr. James Keon.”

“Monique Ocampo,” I said.

Fr. Keon lived in an apartment building for retirees with a bunch of other old men. It turned out to be in a nearby neighborhood from where I lived.

Before I knew it, Fr. Keon became an essential part of my daily routine. Even though he was retired, Fr. Keon still published collections of short stories and made an effort to go out into the city everyday. We would have lunch together whenever he visited campus and even got to see a couple of Broadway musicals together. My friends teased me about how I was going out with an older man, but I paid them no mind. Fr. Keon had a family, anyway. They just all lived in Canada.

It was during his latest trip to Niagara Falls a couple of years ago that I found out about his accident. He collapsed while walking on a bridge overlooking the falls and died in the hospital. Old age caught up to him. And yet it felt so sudden. Death always seems sudden to those who don’t expect it.

By that time, I was already in my last year of college. I begged and pleaded with the director and stage manager of the play I was in to let me go to Canada for his funeral, but in theatre the show must go on. We were performing Our Town and I played the role of the stage manager, the narrator of the play. When I waited in the wings, I watched my friends talk about the nature of death and wished that I was up in Niagara Falls to say goodbye.

I got my chance during the winter break. Canada was so cold, colder than New York. It was a weird juxtaposition. Christmas lights everywhere and yet I was there to say goodbye instead of saying “Hello” to family members.

I found his gravestone after asking the director of the local funeral home. He told me that a lot of people came for Fr. Keon’s funeral. He had a huge family, many friends, and fans of his writings, after all.

Standing by his gravestone felt strange. I couldn’t see his sweet smile or smell the tuna fish sandwich he always loved eating. I laid my card out at the grave. Inside, the card read: “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.  I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity.”

I went out to the falls, which were still flowing mightily despite the temperatures being below freezing. It was a glorious sight to see at night. I looked up at the stars and smiled, knowing that my friend was now there.

The End.

 

Okay, So I'm Not So Above It All: On Taylor Swift and Christopher Lee

Swan goals.

A photo posted by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on Jun 10, 2015 at 3:25pm PDT

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I usually don’t care about celebrity news. I avoid anything relating to names such as Kardashian or Jenner or Clooney. But I’m still a fangirl at heart and when something extraordinary happens, I can and will freak out about it.

I may not be someone who keeps up with all the A-list celebrities, but Taylor Swift and Christopher Lee are my exceptions to the rule.

Last night, I was browsing my Instagram for the umpteenth time when I saw the pic that broke the internet. Taylor Swift on a swan float with Scottish musician Calvin Harris. I’ve seen them together before, but given how Taylor has been all about her female friends, I didn’t think much of it. After all, she’s also friends with Ed Sheeran and Jack Antonoff. But now?

I TOTALLY SHIP IT!

(Translation: Dear Lord, let them be married with babies like now!)

Why am I having such a freak-out about this?

For as long as I’ve been a Swiftie, I’ve seen her with a lot of guys. I related to her when she wrote about Sam and Drew in her first album. I was surprised but happy to see her with Joe Jonas, but they didn’t last. I wished that she went out with Adam Young from Owl City, but for some reason, they never got together. Then when she dated John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhall, I refused to believe it. They were way too old for her and it didn’t surprise me that they didn’t last long. I liked her dating Conner Kennedy and was sad that she eventually moved on to Harry Styles. I honestly hated that she dated Harry because he was too young for her. I was all “Thank you Jesus!” when I heard about them breaking up.

But throughout all this, Taylor had plenty of opportunities to share pictures of her with her significant other. Back when Myspace was a thing, people still uploaded pictures (mostly of themselves making duckface). There were also opportunities for pictures through Facebook and Twitter. As far as I’m concerned, this is the first time Taylor’s shared a picture of herself with someone she’s allegedly dating. Granted, they haven’t gone public about whether or not they’re with each other, but as they say “A picture’s worth a thousand words.”

Calvin is actually the right age for Taylor. Not too young, not too old. I don’t know much about him as a person, but he’s friends with all of Taylor’s friends, which is always of the good. Plus, I did some internet investigating (ie stalking Calvin’s instagram) and found a video of that same swan float as well as a picture of Taylor’s cats. To put it in Taylor’s words “You can see it with the lights out.”

This morning, however, was a little sadder. I woke up and found out that Christopher Lee had passed away.

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To my surprise, I feel a certain kind of sadness that comes only when someone you love has passed away. I feel genuine sadness for the passing of Christopher Lee in a way that I didn’t for Leonard Nimoy or Heath Ledger. I’m only a casual Lord of the Rings and Star Wars at best and I’ve never seen him in Dracula or any of the other Hammer horror films he was in. Nope. I know of Christopher Lee through a video game. Kingdom Hearts to be exact. He played a character named Ansem the Wise who appeared in the second Kingdom Hearts game.

I recognize Christopher Lee because of his distinctive voice. He sang heavy metal, for crying out loud! (And very well, I might add.) He’s an icon for fans of the horror genre and for geekdom as a whole. I love that he actually met JRR Tolkien and contributed his knowledge of the Lord of the Rings trilogy during filming. I loved that he was friends with Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, the other two kings of horror and how their lives seem to always revolve around Halloween and all things macabre.

I know that he died at the age of 93, but it still feels too soon. Then again, I don’t deal with grief really well. All I know is that I’m really gonna miss his voice and seeing him

Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

(And Lord, if it is your will that Taylor and Calvin will live happily ever after, please let it be done. If not, I will go down with this ship.)