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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An Anthology by  Adrienne Nater

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Death, Dying, Grief, and Mourning

in Western Literature


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Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain, 1997


Death of Inman

Death of Inman:

The boy lay in the snow where he had fallen. Then he half sat and fiddled with the caps and the hammer to his pistol.

Put that thing down, Inman said. He had the shot hammer back and the bore leveled at the boy.

The boy looked at him and his blue eyes were empty as a round of ice frozen on the bucket tip. He looked white in the face and even whiter in the crescents under his eyes. He was a little wormy blond thing, his hair cropped close as if he had recently been battling head-lice. Face blank.

Nothing about the boy moved but his hand, and it moved quicker than you could see.

Inman suddenly lay on the ground.

The boy sat and looked at him and then looked at the pistol in his hand and said, They God. As if he had not reckoned at all on it functioning as it had.


Ada heard the gunshots in the distance, dry and thin as sticks breaking. She did not say anything to Ruby. She just turned and ran. He hat flew off her head and she kept on running and left it on the ground like a shadow behind her. She met Stobrod and he held Ralph’s mane in a death grip, though the horse had slowed to a trot.

Back there, Stobrod said. He kept on going.

When she reached the place, the boy had already gathered up the horses and gone. She went to the men on the ground and looked at them, and then she found Inman apart from them. She sat and held him in her lap. He tried to talk, but she hushed him. He drifted in and out and dreamed a bright dream of a home. It had a coldwater spring rising out of rock, black dirt fields, old trees. In his dream the year seemed to be happening all at one time, all the seasons blending together. Apple trees hanging heavy with fruit but yet unaccountably blossoming, ice rimming the spring, okra plants blooming yellow and maroon, maple leaves red as October, corn tops tasseling, a stuffed chair pulled up to the glowing parlor hearth, pumpkins shining in the fields, laurels blooming on the hillsides, ditch banks full of orange jewelweed, white blossoms on dogwood, purple on redbud. Everything coming around at once. And there were white oaks, and a great number of crows, or at least the spirits of crows, dancing and singing in the upper limbs. There was something he wanted to say.

An observer situated up on the brow of the ridge would have looked down on a still, distant tableau in the winter woods. A creek, remnant of snow. A wooded glade, secluded from the generality of mankind. A pair of lovers. The man reclined with his head in the woman’s lap. She, looking down into his eyes, smoothing back the hair from his brow. He, reaching an arm awkwardly around to hold her at the soft part of her hip. Both touching each other with great intimacy. A scene of such quiet and peace that the observer on the ridge could avouch to it later in such a way as might lead those of glad temperaments to imagine some conceivable history where long decades of happy union stretched before the two on the ground.




Adrienne Nater, 2008

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