I have decided that when I die, I don’t want the wake thing, at least not as we do it these days. I don’t want two days of lows and highs, then the terrible closing of a lid and all of these people crying and crying…I mean, there were some wonderful tributes made to my brother in law – a note from a woman who had never seemed particularly close to him and yet whose words of tribute were so on-target we read them again and again, and re-appreciated the fact that my BIL was a man who never said a bad word about anyone, who was quick to lend a hand anywhere, who seemed to collect off-beat, undervalued people the way some people collect bottle-tops; he made them feel like they “fit in” sometimes for the first time, ever, in their lives. He didn’t care who you were, how you voted, where you worshiped (or if you even bothered) or who you slept with. He simply took you as you were, and offered you whatever he had. He didn’t go to church every Sunday, but in many ways he embodied the advice of St. Francis: “Preach the gospel; if necessary use words.”
He never needed to preach.
In the end, finally, perhaps the best thing you can say about someone is, “he was a good, good man.” The tributes were wonderful, moving – often funny – very instructive and warm.
But my goodness, grief is an ugly, ugly thing full of gasps and low animal moans and otherwordly keenings, and I want none of it when I die.
I told my DH yesterday that when I die I want no wake. A funeral mass will be okay, but then just put my rented casket on the back of a pickup truck and bring me to an Irish pub, somewhere, and have everyone drink a flock of Guinness and dance a few reels, and then cremate me.
And I don’t care what you do with the ashes, just don’t put them in a vault, in some mausoleum. Scatter me to the four winds, or leave me in the back of the closet. Throw me into the garden with the mulch. That’ll do.
My family and I thank you – so many of you – for the hundreds of condolences we have received via email…I cannot promise all will be responded to, but please know that all are tremendously appreciated. I was surprised and moved to see that so many blogs had linked to the news of his passing – but I should not have been surprised. By and large, the bloggers I know are large-hearted and generous people, very quick be kind, and I know that most readers/commenters of this blog, no matter their creeds or political leanings, are good folk who know when to draw a blade and when to sheath a sword. My gratitude to you is inexpressible. I pray God blesses all of you for your kindnesses.
As to the few unhinged extremists (on both sides, it must be said) who thought the occasion of a death in my family was part of some huge cosmic connection involving the state of the nation, Dan Rather, Karl Rove, Lee Harvey Oswald, Joe Wilson, Harvey Milk, flouridation in the water, Russ Feingold, Wilford Brimley-for-Quaker-Oats, Mitt Romney and the White Salamandar, Juan, the-guy-who-cuts-grass, Jack Bauer, Michael Milkin, Al Franken, St. Germaine, John Kerry’s Magic Hat, the REAL Pope Paul VI (as opposed to his “communist double”), colon-health, DDT, Sir John Falstaff and introducing Hayley Mills as Pollyanna…I can only say it plainly: Please seek help.
I don’t have anything wise to say, sorry. I may have learned a few things over the past days, but I haven’t processed them, yet. We’re all very tired, and I think I’m not up to writing…the very little reading I have done has been depressing on all counts. Even the good news is depressing in how it is presented.
It is a day for Yeats, and for wondering if in fact the center is not holding, for wondering “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”…but perhaps I will look at Whitman, instead, and hold on to the image of sparkles from a wheel…and all that is promised, therein.
Where the city’s ceaseless crowd moves on the livelong day,
Withdrawn I join a group of children watching, I pause aside with them.
By the curb toward the edge of the flagging,
A knife-grinder works at his wheel sharpening a great knife,
Bending over he carefully holds it to the stone, by foot and knee,
With measur’d tread he turns rapidly, as he presses with light but
Forth issue then in copious golden jets,
Sparkles from the wheel.
The scene and all its belongings, how they seize and affect me,
The sad sharp-chinn’d old man with worn clothes and broad
shoulder-band of leather,
Myself effusing and fluid, a phantom curiously floating, now here
absorb’d and arrested,
The group, (an unminded point set in a vast surrounding,)
The attentive, quiet children, the loud, proud, restive base of the streets,
Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold,
Sparkles from the wheel.
– Walt Whitman
Related: A few staggered breaths and he is gone