Monday, February 18, 2013


The principles of accounting escape those who desire hope. Worse yet, those of us who seek hope will find those of a like mind and bargain ourselves into happiness with nothing more to sell than the need for things to feel better than they are right now. We will find those who will buy this need and sell their own dreams in exchange. Reality strikes discordance with our hearts and we listen to the song whose words we know rather than learn a new one. But now the time has come for the final chorus to be sung and hope lies silent. Death is arrived.

The rituals of Death, our culture’s way of putting into focus a death, memorializing that with ceremony and stone, and all the religious trappings that attend us during these times comfort me not at all. I consider them a false path and even those I have loved I have failed to attend their funerals for these reasons and others also. Yet this time the wound goes far too deep for this to be personalized. The bond I share with three generations of a family call and I answer that call for nothing else is there for me to do. I helped shape the life now ended. I shared the life now ended. For these reasons and for others I have been called and I will answer. There has been honor in this service and for one more time, again.

For my part, I hope for nothing more in Death than to return to the earth and if there be anything at all placed above me let it be a sapling. An Oak would do, or a Hickory, but no metal box, no embalming fluid, no rituals, no ceremony, no words spoken, no music, just a hole filled with dirt and a tree. I will have already been long gone by the time my shell has tasted dirt.

I trust that one day we as a culture will look back at the caskets and vaults and stone markers and permanent places for the dead as archaic and crude. I trust that one day land will be so valuable that the dead will no longer be able to keep it as their own. I see the day coming where the living will detach from the dead more quickly, not the honored memory of the dead, mind you, but the machine that houses the spirit.

Yet even though I firmly believe all of what I have said I cannot escape the feeling of loss, of terrible loss, that fills me, and the need to do something to help those who share this sense of loss, and I see, quite clearly, the need for there to be something, some event, some action, some rite that will propel us forward into doing something about this even if in the long run it doesn’t make very much sense.  

There has to be something that we can do now that makes it better now or at least less worse.

This right now thing, this keening, this feeling of helplessness, this sorrow, this horror, is going to be brought together and bound with those who share it. That is the purpose of what we do. I would give anything to be anywhere else but wherever it is that I go this feeling will follow me and I know, I truly know, there will only be one place where I can go and only one time I can be there and it make a difference. It will make a difference there and at that time to me, but more importantly, it will make a difference to others as well. Three generations of a family will gather and I have to be there to bear witness to a loss that we share and in this… please tell me it will be better or at least less worse.

Take Care,


  1. Most of us have unfortunately had a similar experience. Mike, it will get less worse. Ever forward is the only choice, but you know that. Be glad you can be there for the others at this time. I'm sorry, I'm trying to find the right words but there probably aren't any. Be safe.

  2. Almost four months ago, I lost the love of my life. Her death was sudden and completely unexpected. I probably didn't do as much "family stuff" with her family as I should have in the aftermath, but I am by nature a bit of a hermit.

    We were only together for four and a half years, but for most of that time we were together 24/7. She had become disabled and I served as her caretaker.

    I have some of her ashes. Most of them will be cast off a local landmark, the Devil's Courthouse in Transylvania County, NC, per her wishes. I am going to keep a small quantity of her ashes with me. I had asked her long ago if she would mind if I did that and she was OK with it.

    Personally, I like graveyards and monuments. There is a small country town in Western New York State where, within about a 15 mile radius, I can visit the graves of many of my ancestors and cousins going back over 200 years. In Peekskill, NY, my family is buried back into the 1600's. Graveyards and their monuments are pieces of history more indelible and accessible than ink on paper, and they provide a handy adjunct to written records.

    But the sense of loss when Lisa died was profound. It got better for a long time. Recently the emotions are bubbling up again, and reading what you wrote brought them up again. For that I thank you.

    1. My work here is done, if I can make someone feel, Jay.

  3. The rituals are for the living, for those left with the feeling of helpless grief. It gives them something to do when they don’t know what else to do. It doesn’t relieve the loss, but gives them the sense they did what they could, and communion with the others that are grieving.

    “…just a hole filled with dirt and a tree.”
    I hope your dogs dig you up and enjoy your bones. ;o)

  4. Healing for the living. I've specified a huge party and a New Orleans Jazz funeral. Simple cardboard box cremation with ashes spread hither and yon at an appropriate time..