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Issues of the Day Ode to Michal, Death Be Not Proud

A few hours after returning from the cemetery where Michal, a friend, was laid to rest today, I recalled a book, John Gunther’s Death Be Not Proud, which influenced me when I was in high school.  It is the story of the author’s son, who valiantly struggled with a brain tumor for three years  before his death at age seventeen. The book’s title refers to a  poem by the same name written by John Donne in the early  seventeenth century.

Like Johnny Gunther’s family, Yoav, Michal’s husband, sought ceaselessly to find a way to stop the feral cancer that began devastating Michal’s body a year ago. An attorney with a patent lawyer’s knowledge of biotechnology, Yoav scoured the medical literature in search of a remedy to stop the vicious illness. To the surprise of the specialists, he uncovered angles and approaches that almost certainly extended Michal’s life well beyond the expected.


Ultimately, the disease would have its way with Michal’s body. But in the final weeks, when the chilling winds became apparent, I observed from a distance an unbelievably tenacious battle: Michal continued to cling to life. A woman in her early forties with a daughter in grade school, she dared to shout at the gales, and somehow forestalled the storm.


Death may have taken her, far, far too early. But, as if heeding the poet Dylan Thomas’ appeal,  she did “not go gently into that good night.” Both she and Yoav, who fought with a warrior’s ardor to save her,” raged, raged against the dying light.”


I have written a poem, Ode to Michal, Death Be Not Proud which you are invited to read.   

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved