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When Death Comes

When Death Comes

by Mary Oliver

When Death Comes Summary

Our speaker imagines the arrival of death in several ways: as a bear, a man with a coin purse, a disease, an iceberg. She tells us that when death comes, she wants to die full of curiosity. She explains that because she will die and/or because she wants to die full of curiosity, she considers everything to be part of a brotherhood, and questions conventional notions of time. She compares each life to a flower, in its commonness but also its individuality. She wants to know the names of things well enough to be comfortable with them, and regards each life as precious.

When she dies she wants to be able to say that she knew the world intimately, and embraced it with open arms, like a bride and bridegroom. She tells us that she doesn't want to have regrets or doubts; she doesn't want to be afraid or angry. She wants to have truly lived in this world, not just experienced it as a visitor.

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