I bear the sad news that longtime Orthosphere author Thomas Bertonneau died last night in his sleep. He had been suffering from a wasting disease and knew that death was near at hand, but he resolved to accept his end with a manly mix of Stoical reserve and Christian insouciance. As Tom wrote to me in the first part of June,
“As soon as the neurologist made the diagnosis, I instructed her that I wanted to know nothing – absolutely nothing – about the details of the disease’s progress or about the timeline of my foreshortened future. I resolved to live – as happily as possible – one day at a time.”
For those who understood the happy warrior that Tom was, these words will come as no surprise. He had the faith and the philosophy to know that a man should not worry about the hour that Death will knock at his door, but should rather worry about the man who must open that door and allow Death to enter in.
Please say a prayer for Tom’s dear, departed soul. We will post a longer tribute to his life and work sometime soon. I’ve pasted below a poem that seems to suit the circumstances. It is by the Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and it describes the way that men pass through our lives on their way to the life where there is no more passing through. The second stanza describes men whose bright minds rain rich beams down on those they pass. It would seem to have been written with Thomas Bertonneau in mind, since he has been for all of us an intrepid lantern-bearer in this dark and dolorous world.
The Lantern out of Doors
Sometimes a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?
Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mold or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.
Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.