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  • Writer's pictureStefano Calvetti

Dies Slowly: A Compelling Reminder to Take Control of Your Life

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

A hand written page on a journal, with an exert of the poem "dies slowly" by Martha Medeiros

After my father died, almost a decade ago, I started reorganizing all the papers in his home office. I went through every single folder and drawer, rearranging all of them. As people came to the house to express their condolences, I locked myself in the room and worked there for three days straight, restlessly. It was my way to grief, to connect to him in a different way.

Among documents and bills, I found a small folder where he stored a few papers. Among them, I found two poems: “If” by R. Kipling, which I knew very well, and “Dies Slowly”, by Martha Medeiros (erroneously attributed to Pablo Neruda).

The latter hit me. It took me by surprise and had me thinking a lot. My father made difficult choices in his life, and I think that poem was a source of inspiration for him. I kept that piece of paper for myself, until recently when I gave it to my mother.

Despite its title, “Dies Slowly” is a hymn to life. It is an encouragement to embrace challenges, to avoid falling into the trap of too-comfortable routines, to experiment, to be silly, to keep moving, learning, failing, trying.

It is a compelling reminder to take control of our lives, avoiding being inertly carried away by events or someone else’s decisions. It is an incitement to live fully, to be present.

Here’s the poem, if you want to read it. I would love to read your comments on it.

"Dies slowly he who transforms himself into the slave of habit,

repeating every day the same itineraries,

who does not change a brand,

does not risk wearing a new color and doesn’t talk to whom he doesn’t know.

Dies slowly he who avoids a passion,

who prefers black to white

and the dots on the “i” to the whirlpool of emotions,

just those ones that recover the gleam of the eye,

smiles from the yawns,

hearts from the stumbling and the feelings.

Dies slowly he who does not overthrow the table when he is unhappy at work,

who does not risk the certain for the uncertain

to go toward that dream that has been keeping him awake.

Who does not allow, at least once in his life, to flee from wise advices.

Dies slowly he who does not travel, does not read, does not listen to music, who does not find grace in himself.

Dies slowly he who destroys his self-esteem,

who does not accept somebody’s help.

Dies slowly he who passes his days complaining of his bad luck or the incessant rain.

Dies slowly he who abandons a project before starting it,

who does not ask over a subject that he does not know

or who does not answer when being asked about something he knows.

Let’s avoid death in soft doses,

remembering always that to be alive demands an effort much bigger

then the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead to the attainment of splendid happiness."

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