The passing of Kim Jong Il and Vaclav Havel present a contrast in images. North Korean state TV was on hand to note the effect that news of the Dear Leader’s demise had on persons who regarded him a god. In the case of Havel his death was long expected; and when it came the mourners came to bid goodbye as individuals, not to a god, but to a friend; to someone who reminded them that leaders are only ever human themselves.
John Buchan once observed that what truly survives us is not armored trains or palaces, but love. In his book Witchwood he describes a young pastor who hallows the burial of an old farmer’s wife and looks back as he rides away. He reflects, “how small and frail seemed the life in that cottage, as contrasted with the rich pulsing world of the woods and hills and their serene continuance. But it was they that were the shadows in God’s sight. The immortal thing was the broken human heart that could say in its frailty that its Redeemer liveth.”
Kim Jong Il is dead. Havel lives on.
Though here at journey’s end I lie
In darkness buried deep,
Beyond all towers strong and high,
Beyond all mountains steep,
Above all shadows rides the Sun
And Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.
Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.