Poet Mary Oliver Dies and the Internet Remembers How to Love Big
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
— Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”
Poet Mary Oliver died of lymphoma at the age of 83 last week leaving behind a legacy of being this country’s best selling poet, so says the New York Times … and my Facebook feed.
There was just something about her poetry that struck a chord with those who loved poetry and those who really didn’t.
One of her most well-known works, “When Death Comes,” ends like this:
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
And last week as I scrolled through social media and took note of people’s reactions to Oliver’s death, I felt like the Internet had dig up a flashlight, pointed it right at these words, and shined its light upon them.
Writer Christine Organ wrote:
“So when people say you’re too much — too trusting, too vulnerable, too emotional, too optimistic, too hopeful, too impractical, too idealist, too forgiving, too caring, too passionate, too dramatic, too sensitive — don’t let them. Because this is what it means to take the world in your arms. Let there be no wondering.”
And something about those words struck a chord with me.
I am, indeed, someone who has both been told and has felt like I’m just too much. And, truth be told, this sentiment has always held its own sting.
Most likely because I see the truth in it!
But Organ’s take — much like Oliver’s — gave me the permission I needed to flip this script, to love this trait, and to be proud of it.
So if you happen to need that same permission, here it is.
If you love big, feel big, react big; this one’s for you.
In On Being Magazine, writer Parker J. Palmer responded to Oliver’s, “My Work Is Loving The World” with these words:
“If I could embrace the idea that ‘My work is loving the world' — and spend my days living more fully into that job description — I’d be giving thanks not just with my words but with my life.”
So there it is. When you love too much, when you are too much, you’re taking the world into your arms like it’s your job; and that is a gift.
Amidst the craziness that is our world right now, Twitter users took a moment to love big last week, and it was breathtaking.
Take a moment to take in their words and love big with them, I think Oliver would approve.
Pay attention.— Kendal Mountain Literature Festival (@KendalMtnLitFes) January 18, 2019
Tell about it.
RIP Mary Oliver. pic.twitter.com/yVefYzPORl
MARY OLIVER SAID JOY IS NOT MADE TO BE A CRUMB pic.twitter.com/1XsQIGvbyo— dalton day (@lilghosthands) January 19, 2019
“I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.” -Mary Oliver— Andrea Gibson (@andreagibson) January 24, 2019
“Letting the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” More of is should do that. Thank you, Mary Oliver.— roxane gay (@rgay) January 18, 2019
Thank you #MaryOliver for your gift of words. I once spent an entire retreat with her poem, “When I am among the trees”:— Sister Susan Francois, CSJP (@susanfrancois) January 18, 2019
… “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.” pic.twitter.com/ZQsv0tIoGU