It’s the holiday season, a time for good will toward men, so let’s not laugh at the notion that the city of York, Pa., actually had its own poet laureate.

No, let us instead debate whether the poet laureate of York, Pa., 86-year-old Gerry Meisenhelder, chose the right Bob Dylan song to be the soundtrack for his passing, which took place on the day after Christmas at York Hospital after a battle with leukemia.

According to an article in the York Daily Record, Mr. Meisenhelder, as he lay dying, dictated one last poem to his grandson — as Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” played in the background.

Sorry. I feel sorry that York, Pa.’s poet laureate has moved on to the Great Literary Salon in the Sky. But his choice of Dylan songs was rather trite.

How about these titles? “Are You Ready?” “Dead Man, Dead Man.” “Death Is Not the End.” “Dirge.” “Desolation Row.” “Going, Going, Gone.” “In My Time of Dyin’.” “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”

I could go on, but I won’t, except to say that my choice would be “I Shall Be Released.” To wit:

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released.

Now that would be a lovely Dylan song to have echoing in my ears as I head to the highlands, as I rage against the dying of the light, as I travel beyond the horizon, when it comes time to  say my restless farewell.


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3 thoughts on “Just dying to hear one last song by Dylan?

  1. Speaking as someone who loved Gerry, and as someone who was with him during some of his final conscious moments on this earth, I feel I should point out that Gerry did not plan the music that was played as he died.

    The music was chosen by his wife Polly. Perhaps her choice was “trite” as you suggest, but she undoubtedly found some comfort in it during the darkest hour of her life.

    Congratulations on being a clever writer. My hope for you is that you live long enough to be half as wise as Gerry Meisenhelder. And when your time comes, I hope that you are able to face the end with the kind of unblinking bravery that Gerry did, and that you get to choose your own soundtrack if it’s really that important to you. It wasn’t to Gerry.

  2. Nick: I’ve chosen ‘The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest’ for my funeral rite, most particularly for these two stanzas:

    Well, up the stairs ran Frankie Lee
    With a soulful, bounding leap,
    And, foaming at the mouth,
    He began to make his midnight creep.
    For sixteen nights and days he raved,
    But on the seventeenth he burst
    Into the arms of Judas Priest,
    Which is where he died of thirst.

    No one tried to say a thing
    When they took him out in jest,
    Except, of course, the little neighbor boy
    Who carried him to rest.
    And he just walked along, alone,
    With his guilt so well concealed,
    And muttered underneath his breath,
    “Nothing is revealed.”

  3. Dylan song, how about ‘Shooting Star’?

    And, hoping no one thinks I’m making light of funerals (I’d like mine to be upbeat and leave people smiling, even laughing), my choice would be to have the congregation instructed to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ to the tune of ‘Gilligan’s Island’. Yes, try it. It’s perfect!!

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