January 19

Ralph Stanley’s Ode to Death

Over the centuries, countless poems and songs were written about death being the theme. Owing to its inevitability and bitter sting, the impact could not be understated.

One that cannot to be easily forgotten is this chilling chant performed by Dr. Ralph Stanley.

Ralph Stanley in “O Death”

Song’s Anatomy

Death, as a word, is already haunting. The song then is an attempt at braving an encounter with it.

The arrangement was conversational. Death was personified and was assigned responses to a poor soul’s plea. Begging to be spared, the dying person appealed for mercy on the bases of prayers, a mother losing a child, unconsumed youth and wealth to be spent. Nevertheless, he won’t be passed by. Death is a neutral force and won’t consider even the sincerest petitions. Otherwise, it will upset the balance of nature.

As both a friend and a foe.

Unless we’re in the middle of great suffering or experiencing unbearable pain,

death remains to be an unwelcome guest.

No man, no matter how powerful he once been, will remain fearless once death comes a knocking on his doorstep.

To die is gain.

That’s the Christian’s perspective on death.

It does not mean courting death on purpose, of course. It’s just a matter of coming to terms that one day, you’ll have to embrace it. It had never been easy even to the most seasoned believers. Still, we put the effort to be prepared to face it soon.

Death is gain because of the weightier fruits we’ll reap. Once we’ve totally passed from this world to the other side, we’ll get to see God. More than seeing him, we’ll get to live with him for all eternity. (That is, if we’re his real kids.) All fears and apprehensions will be erased. Besides, death functions only for a time. In eternity, it will cease to exist.


gospel, Ralph Stanley, Recitation

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