in memory of my father-in-law, Pietro Lorefice (1938-2020) The bell now tolls, dear Pietro, for this hour When we must bid your faithful soul adieu, And lay to rest that mortal frame we knew, Now spent, like withered grass or faded flower. I knew that you were likely to precede My soul in death, since you had been so ill And had begun your trek up life's steep hill While I was but a yet unplanted seed. Yet, since we never know how life will go, I did not know for sure if I would grieve Your sad demise, or be the first to leave This earthly sphere, while you stayed here below. My heart still beats---but yours is still as stone; My flesh is warm---but yours is cold as clay; Your dust returns to dust this solemn day, Your temple falls, and earth reclaims her own. The die is cast, the process has begun To thoroughly undo your earthly frame, For nothing here on earth can stay the same, And all that time has built must come undone. You change, yet we who stay are changed as well, Diminished by your death, for when you stole Away, you left in hearts a gaping hole, A space within us where you once did dwell. Yet, as we are reduced, we are made rich With truth to build our mortal lives upon: The truth that we must go the way you've gone And leave this passing world without a stitch. Then all we have accrued while on this earth, From wealth to fame to family and friends, Must all be left behind, for when life ends We leave as naked as we came at birth. Death comes for all! Yet when death comes, may I Depart this life as blessedly as you, Beloved and cherished by all those I knew Anointed by their tear drops as I die. How sweet to leave this world as you have left! Surrounded by so many caring souls Who ring out tributes like a bell that tolls And sing sweet songs from loving hearts bereft. Your memory is honoured by your own Who walk with pensive steps behind that chest That bears your body to its place of rest Where it will lie unmoving and alone. How blessed, I say, to exit life like this, Extolled by one's own family and nation, One's life a source of thankful celebration By all---yet you've a greater source of bliss: For you have kept the faith and battled well And borne the summer's heat and winter's blast; You've crossed the finish line and rest at last From wrestling with the world, the flesh, and hell. O, may I likewise fight and not yield ground, Advancing still in faith and hope and love Until I claim the victor's crown above The day my soul in glory will be found. You leave behind the countless lives you've blessed, A crumbling, vacant house, and little more; Behold now, Pietro, what you've laid in store Rejecting lesser riches for the best! The cypress trees are whispering of you As we process in silence toward your tomb: “Make way for him whose life cast out death's gloom; Behold how he was loved, and not by few!” Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.