Whenever occurs a death of a public figure or a public death, manifold are the civic expressions of sympathy summoning “our thoughts and prayers” and “our condolences for all who knew and loved” the deceased.

As a prayerful and pitying person, I do not question sincerity of the speakers. Still, as one who long ago internally ingested the spirit of the declaration, “Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind,”[1] I grieve for all who die, known and unknown. And I sorrow especially when the cause of death is at the heartless hands of institutional oppression and indifference.

© 2023 PRA

Illustration: John Donne; portrait by Isaac Oliver (1565-1617)

[1] From Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII (1623), John Donne (1572-1631)

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