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Monday, September 11, 2006

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4)

[Image of centerpiece, “Appeal to the Great Spirit,” found in the Tower Room of Baker Library, Dartmouth College—bronze sculpture of a Native American man, adorned with a headdress, staring at the heavens while atop a horse with his arms stretched out].


“The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.

One who has taken his birth is sure to die, and after death one is sure to take birth again. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.

As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”

Excerpt from the “Bhagavad Gita” Religious Text

Mahatma Gandhi exemplified faith in the face of great turmoil. Cries of “Death to Gandhi!” erupted during prayer meetings in January 1948. Prophetically, Gandhi told close friend and follower, Manubehn: “I wish I might face the assassin’s bullets while lying on your lap and repeating the name of Rama with a smile on my face.” As Gandhi moved into the crowd to speak, a man fired three shots. “Sri Ram! Sri Ram!” Gandhi said, as he tumbled to the ground.

Gandhi’s final wish is universal. We may not all call out to Rama, the deified hero, worshiped as an incarnation of Vishnu, preserver and protector of worlds, but we, whether Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, agnostic, atheist, or other, hope to be accompanied in the moment of departure by a calm smile, a heart filled with the beliefs we hold inviolable, and the image of a beloved being we associate with a place of safety, and the comfort of companionship, held inside our shut eyelids.

This day is dedicated to the members of our Dartmouth family, immediate and extended, who have gone before us. In addition to those who attended this institution, we acknowledge all those connected to it by spirit, by blood, by law, by the bonds of love and friendship—human beings, mensches, all. We do not forget that all present here today have lost. We do not forget that all not present here today have lost as well. Sadness and suffering have visited every doorstep. But the human spirit is inexorable, inextricable, and inexpugnable. And today is a day for the human spirit. And thus today we remember:

• All departed classmates, friends, and family—especially those who left us too soon, too young, too fast
• Those who lost their lives as a result of the events of September 11, 2001—including Juan Pablo Cisneros Alvarez ‘99
• Those who lost their lives as a result of disease, poverty, injustice; struggles they did not start, a world they did not make
• Those who lost their lives in pursuit of human progress in all its forms; greater understanding of our planet and universe


First Reader: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me (Excerpt, Psalm 23)”

Second Reader: “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth … The LORD will keep you from harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Excerpt, Psalm 121)”

Third Reader: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance … a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak … a time to love … a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4, 5-7, 8)”

Fourth Reader: “A good name is better than a fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart … The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2, 8)”

Fifth Reader: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God … Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:50, 51-52)”

Sixth Reader: “Supreme over his servants, He sendeth forth guardians who watch over you, until, when death overtaketh any one of you, our messengers take his soul, and fail not: Then are they returned to God their Lord, the True (Surah al-An’am: 61, 62)”

Seventh Reader: “And the earth shall shine with the light of her Lord, and the Book shall be set, and the prophets shall be brought up, and the witnesses; and judgment shall be given between them with equity; and none shall be wronged (Surah az-Zumar: 69)”

ALL: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together … let us encourage one another (Hebrews 10: 23-24, 25)”


All members of the congregation are invited to join.


There are places I'll remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I'll love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I'll love you more

In my life I'll love you more



“Through your blessing, grace, and guidance, through the power of the light that streams from you:

May all my negative karma, destructive emotions, obscurations, and blockages be purified and removed,

May I know myself forgiven for all the harm I may have thought and done,

May I accomplish this profound practice of phowa, and die a good and peaceful death,

And through the triumph of my death, may I be able to benefit all other beings, living or dead.”

Excerpt from “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche

At the time of his death on January 29, 1963, Robert Frost was considered the eternal, albeit unofficial, poet laureate of this nation. Frost was born in San Francisco, California. His father, a journalist named William, died when Frost was about eleven years old. Isabelle, his Scottish mother, resumed her career as a schoolteacher to support her family. The family lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, with his paternal grandfather, William Prescott Frost—the man who gave Frost his first, and perhaps most rigorous schooling. In 1892, Frost graduated from high school and came to Dartmouth, but attended the College only briefly.

Over the next ten years he held a number of jobs: textile mill worker and expert instructor of Latin at his mother’s school in Methuen, Massachusetts, among these. In 1895, Frost married former schoolmate, Elinor White. Together they parented six children. Frost published his first books in Great Britain in the second decade of the Twentieth Century. Soon thereafter he became the most read and constantly anthologized poet in the United States, awarded the Pulitzer Prize four times. In his poems, Frost depicted the fields and farms of his surroundings, and observed the details of rural life, which hide universal meaning. “I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover’s quarrel with the world,” Frost once said.

Many of Frost’s great poems are appropriate to share today. But standing in memorial of those who have gone before us; here in the town of Hanover, so near the still waters of Storrs and Occum, in a clearing by the center of the thick forests of Vermont and New Hampshire, and accompanied by the proverbial barns and farmhouses that adorn the shores of the Connecticut River, one seems exceptionally fitting. In “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening,” Frost writes:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Frost speaks of “miles to go.” He suggests that longevity is more than an expanse of time; more than a sum of the moments we have lived—the total number of days, weeks, months, and years. A long life, it seems, is one of welcomed travels and interactions, not one grounded in the shunning of environmental or human connection. Nature and rural surroundings are especially significant for Frost, as they serve as his chief source for insight into the deeper design of life. Who among us can forget the first time we, as matriculated Dartmouth students, saw the leaves change along the Appalachian Trail; the dusting of snow come November; the blue ice of Winter; the first flowers of Spring; the refreshing river in the summertime? Who among us can ignore the wisdom to come from these? If a good life is measured in experiences, not decades, then surely all those whom we remember today lived good, if not great, if not enviable lives.

Frost speaks of “sleep,” and of “woods, lovely, dark and deep,” filling with “downy flakes of snow.” Is this an acceptance of death that borders on longing; an undercurrent, tingeing the surface, reinforcing and playing off the night and winter images? Yes. What motivates this sentiment? “Ho ka hey!” “Today is a good day to die!” is what Crazy Horse, Chief of the Oglala Sioux nation, sang each morning. Some call it “battle cry,” demonstrative of Crazy Horse’s fearlessness; his willingness to surrender to death at any time. But standing atop the granite of New Hampshire, the still North in our hearts; the still North in our soul, the hill-winds in our breath; the hill-winds in our veins, the Oglala Sioux chief’s words seem remarkably similar to ones with which we are exceptionally familiar: “Live Free or Die!” Not an invitation for life to end. But a summons to exalt the life of each and every human being to draw a breath in this world; a celebration of the human spirit: inexorable, inextricable, and inexpugnable. An invitation: to believe in our future, to praise each person in the present, and to remember.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
--Fred Rogers, “The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember”

2003 Memorial Ceremony Excerpts:
Officiated & authored by Unai Montes-Irueste ’98 with assistance from Belinda Chiu ‘98


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