Thinking about Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

When I was just four, Mother kept me up one night to see a live broadcast of a program on TV.  She said it was special and perhaps I might remember some of it later as I grew older.  It was a live production of Our Town.  Although I’ve seen several productions of Our Town on TV and on local stages in the intervening decades, I have never forgotten some of those shadowy b&w images on that early model TV screen.  I remember the stark, near-barren stage, Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs  cooking breakfast on invisible stoves.  I especially recall a mass of huddled umbrellas and a young lady emerging from them dressed in white.  Mother said the girl was dead.  It was her funeral.  I have never forgotten that.  I have attended many graveside funerals since then, and studied Our Town– especially Act III.  And I have taken many peaceful walks through our city cemetery and imagined its residents seated in folding chairs beside their tombstones, unemotionally commenting about my presence amongst themselves as I passed by reading their stones.  “Beloved Wife.” “Daddy.”  “Little Angel.”  Act III tells us the departed grieve the ignorance and blindness of the living.  And if we only could, we’d grieve more for ourselves than for our dearly departed no matter the age or circumstance.  The answer to all of our “whys?” and “what fors?” about the meaning of death lies in Act III of Our Town.  Yet I’ve never found the words to utter that answer aloud– but I can feel it in my bones.

Winston and the mighty Zenith

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