An Instruction On How To Die

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Weekly commentary by CBS News Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
And, finally, remember "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant? It was a staple of English literature when I was in high school, one of the poems we had to memorize. Basically, it is an instruction on how to die. Not something that high school students worry about all that much, but somehow I never forgot its closing lines: 'So live that when thy summons comes to join the innumerable caravan, go not like the quarry-slave at night scourged to his dungeon but sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust. Approach thy grave like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams.'

John Paul was a moral leader who did more than tell us how to live. He showed us. When he went back to Poland for his first time as pope, he told the people not to crawl on their stomachs but to stand up. And they stood up against communism. When he recovered from an assassin's wounds, he forgave his assassin. And when his long life was in his final days, he accepted it and with great dignity showed us how to die. The shroud that covers pleasant dreams is woven with the threads of a life we have led.

By Bob Schieffer