Death, Dying, Grief and Mourning

            "Death is always the same,
                               but each man dies in his own way."

Carson McCullers, Clock Without Hands, 1960


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in Western Literature

An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Jose΄ Saramago, The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, 1994


Translation from the Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero

Death of Jesus

Death of Jesus:

They led Jesus away and took him to a hill known as Golgotha. Despite his strong constitution, his legs soon weakened under the weight of the cross, and the centurion in charge ordered a man who had stopped to watch to relieve the prisoner of his burden. The crowd continued to jeer and shout insults, but now and then someone would utter words of compassion. As for the disciples, they walked in a daze. A woman stopped Peter and challenged him, You also were with Jesus of Galilee, buy he denied it, I don’t know what you are talking about, and tried to hide in the crowd, only to meet the same woman a second time, and once more she asked him, Were you not with Jesus, and again Peter denied it with an oath, I do not know the man. And since three is a number favored by God, Peter was challenged a third time, and for a third time he swore, saying, I do not know the man. The women went to Golgotha with Jesus, a few on either side, but Mary Magdalene, who stays closest of all is not allowed to reach him, the soldiers push her away, just as they will make everyone keep their distance from the three crosses that have been put up, two already occupied by convicted men who howl in pain, the third now ready for occupation, standing tall and erect like a column that supports the sky, Ordering Jesus to lie down, the soldiers extend his arms on the crossbar. As they hammer in the first nail, piercing the flesh of his wrist between two bones, a sudden dizziness send him back in time, he feels the pain as his father felt before him, sees himself as he saw the cross at Sepphoris.

Then they drove a nail through his other wrist, and he experienced that first tearing of flesh as the soldiers began to hoist the crossbar to the top of the cross, his entire weight suspended from fragile bones, and it was almost a relief when they pushed his legs upward and hammered another nail through his heels, now there was nothing to be done but wait for death.

Jesus is dying slowly, life ebbing from him, ebbing, when suddenly the heavens overhead open wide and God appears in the same attire he wore in the boat, and His words resound throughout the earth. This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Jesus realized that he had been tricked, as the lamb led to sacrifice is tricked, and that his life had been planned for death from the very beginning. Remembering the river of blood and suffering that would flow from his side and flood the globe, he called out to the open sky, where God could be seen smiling, Men, forgive Him, for He knows not what He has done. Then he began expiring in the midst of a dream. He found himself back in Nazareth and saw his father shrugging his shoulders and smiling as he told him, Just as I cannot ask you all the questions, neither can you give me all the answers. There was still some life in him when he felt a sponge soaked in water and vinegar moisten his lips, and looking down, he saw a man walking away with a bucket, a staff over his shoulder. But Jesus did not see, on the ground, was a black bowl into which his blood was dripping.



Adrienne Nater, 2008

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