Friday, July 25, 2008

My Baby Daddy

So…. my husband decided last night that it would be hilarious if I referred to him on my blog as simply ‘my baby daddy’ and if we went on Maury Povich to have a paternity test done. The former I can stomach, at least for the remainder of this post, but the latter got me a little aggravated – particularly since this will be grandbaby #6 on his side of the family and our little one will be the first one born within wedlock. Oh, the irony. So while I will not be going on Maury Povich unless D permits me to dress in a too-short polka dotted halter top with a flask in my back pocket and a lit cigarette dangling from blood red lips while I listen to the audience degrade me for my terrible mothering skills (Oh, the horror! She’s a terrible mum already and she hasn’t even given birth!), I will, for the remainder of this entry, refer to D as simply, ‘my baby daddy’. Feedback is appreciated. Who knows? If it entertains you enough, I may keep it up.

Anyway, I decided this entire entry should be about my baby daddy. Why not? I didn’t have much else planned to write for you today, so I’ll try to come up with something interesting….

As many of you know, my living room is currently facing a rather sad plight. It has been (to quote Lisey) “stripped of its carpet and its furniture” and has been left to fend for itself as it attempts to re-emerge into the world as something transformed into a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, this metamorphosis is not going nearly as smoothly as the metamorphosis of, say, a butterfly. Or a moth. Whatever. My point being that butterflies and moths have god or mother nature or some other force looking out for their development while my living room has – sadly – only me. Thus, the living room shuns itself from the world in an attempt to hide the ugliness I have been wicked enough to bestow upon it.

Or rather, the ugliness my baby daddy bestowed upon it.

You see, I’m not actually the one who stripped the poor living room of its carpet. Or its furniture. Come to think of it, I’m not the one who started stripping the paint off the baseboards, either. That was my baby daddy. Let me tell you a little story about the series of events that led up to the sad plight we face today:

Once upon a time we bought a home that had the 2nd ugliest carpet in the history of the universe (next to that orange shag carpet somebody thought up circa 1974) and a lot of painted woodwork. Though H tried and tried, she simply could not fathom how this could be the highest standard of beauty for her home to live up to. And so, one day she said to the man who would become her baby daddy, “Wouldn’t the living room look lovely if we ripped up the carpet, re-stained the floor, and re-did all the woodwork?” To which her future baby daddy simply replied, “That’s a lot of work”.

Fast forward 3 years. Suddenly, H’s baby daddy starts to strip the paint from the baseboards. H is overly excited as this leads her to believe that she and baby daddy will now transform their living room into a thing of beauty.

Time passes. Fast forward 6 more months. Suddenly, H’s baby daddy randomly rips the carpet from the floor. ‘Oh, thank God!’ exclaims H, believing that she and her baby daddy will finally make some progress and their ugly duckling living room will grow into a beautiful swan!

More time passes. Fast forward 3 months. Suddenly, H’s baby daddy sells all their living room furniture to his mother. All of it. Baby daddy assures H that this will motivate them to complete their living room in a timely fashion. After 9 months of false starts, H is cautiously optimistic and hopes that their living room will one day be livable again.

More time passes. Fast forward 1 ½ months. Baby daddy has worked on the living room for a total of 2 hours. H (who is, by the way, knocked up) works diligently on the living room 3-4 nights per week. Baby daddy explains to her that he has a lot of other responsibilities to take care of. Strangely enough, H has still managed to cook, clean, do the laundry, buy the groceries, etc., etc., etc. and work on the living room. While baby daddy pays the bills, H looks longingly out the door and wonders if she will ever see living room furniture again. Then baby daddy asks for some ice cream and she sighs a big sigh and quietly curses the ugly carpet and painted baseboards that started this whole thing in the first place. That weekend, H goes to her parents’ house so she doesn’t forget what a loveseat looks like.

As you can see, the living room renovation isn’t exactly going as planned. Oddly enough, baby daddy insisted that getting rid of the living room furniture and having to put his (very large and expensive) plasma TV away would be motivation to finish the living room in a timely manner. Obviously, baby daddy was wrong. H, on the other hand, couldn’t give a shit less about the stupid plasma TV and just wants baby daddy to stop sitting around in her craft room watching Cubs games and going, “shhhhhhh” at her while she’s trying to sew.

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that D simply doesn’t care about the living room as much as I do. Clearly. And so the poor living room has to rely on me – the girl who lacks the skills to draw convincing stick figures – to transform it into a thing of beauty. I know, I know – I feel sorry for the living room too. But I guess there’s nothing we can do about it at this point unless, of course, any of you out there are interior decorators.

But enough about my living room. This is supposed to be about my baby daddy, right? Hmm, what other interesting things has my baby daddy done of late?

Some of you have heard that my baby daddy sings. He sings a lot, especially on Saturday morning. But here’s the catch: he just randomly sings about whatever activity he’s participating in. He sings about folding socks. He sings about brushing his teeth. He sings about watching TV. He sings about paying the bills. He sings about hanging up his towel. He sings about eating Raisin Bran (though Cuthbert says this is forgivable, as – and I quote – ‘Raisin Bran kinda does make you wanna sing’). He sings ALL FREAKING MORNING. While he varies his tunes from time to time, his favorite thing to do is to use the tune of “Camptown Races” and just add his own words. There is a method to his madness, it appears.

This is all fine and dandy, unless, of course, you happen to live with him on Saturday mornings. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m a horrible wife for letting the singing get to me and that if that’s the worst thing he does, I’m certainly the luckiest wife on the planet. YOU ARE ALL WRONG! If I have to listen to that horrid Camptown Races tune while my baby daddy sings, ‘this is how I fold my socks, doo da, doo da’ one more time I may run my car into a bridge embankment.

If you want to know if it’s really that bad, call Velma. She had dinner with us last night (and, incidentally, helped the poor living room with its plight) and D sang the entire time he cleaned up the kitchen. Velma is quite mild tempered, but even she asked me if he’s always like that.

In all seriousness, I have a pretty good baby daddy. However, none of the really nice, sweet stuff he does is all that funny and I’ve got to keep you entertained. Otherwise, you won’t read my blog (and then where would I be?). But now that I’ve entertained you maybe I can hold your attention long enough to tell you about some of my baby daddy’s endearing qualities, including the following:

*He has actually been inside of the JoAnn’s Fabric with me enough times to know where the buttons are located (husband of the year award, right there!)

*On that note he has actually PICKED OUT buttons for me.

*He doesn’t mind at all if I am out until 3 am dancing with a bunch of men he never met, provided that 95% of them are gay.

*I’ve never actually used our lawn mower. Or our weed eater. Never. Not once. And our lawn is pretty well groomed.

*He weeded the garden for me for weeks when I was too morning sick or tired to hold a hoe.

*He is intently focused on the bumpy thing that was once my stomach and likes to touch it at least once a day, commenting that it is cute even though I just think it is fat (serious awwwwww factor).

So you see, my baby daddy isn’t all that bad. All these endearing qualities almost make up for ‘I’m eating all the Raisin Bran, doo da, doo da’ on a Saturday morning.


Friday, July 18, 2008

The Undertaking II ~ “Crapper”

Woot woot! I managed to stay focused long enough to come back to The Undertaking! Yea me! Let’s jump right in, shall we?

In Lynch’s aptly named chapter, titled Crapper, he says the following:

The flush toilet, more than any single invention, has “civilized” us in a way that religion and law could never accomplish.

Odd, don’t you think?

But Lynch has a point. In the very same paragraph he tells us that… having lost the regular necessity of dealing with unpleasantries, we have lost the ability to do so when the need arises.

His point, of course, is that life is full of ugly, unpleasant shit (pun definitely intended) but we’ve done such a lovely job of taking care of the everyday nastiness with all our high-tech grandeur that we no longer know what to do with the really big ugly things that we can’t fix when they happen – things like death. Lynch goes on to write about a time when nearly everything of consequence (and, along with it, everything of human unpleasantry) happened in the family’s parlor and how nowadays, nearly everything of consequence happens away from home, distanced from the place where consequence truly belongs:

The homes were large to house multiple births and generations. These were
households in which, just as babies were being birthed, grandparents were aging upstairs…until alas, they died and were taken downstairs to the same room the babies were christened in to get what was called then, “laid out”. Between the births and deaths were the courtships…the children married, often in the same room – the room with large pocket doors drawn for privacy and access. The room in which grandparents were waked and new babies were baptized and love was proffered and contracted – the parlor.

Half a century, two world wars, and the New Deal later…the emphasis shifted from stability to mobility… The birthing room became the downstairs “bath”… Births were managed in the sparkling wards of hospitals… courtship was done en route, in a car. Retirees were deported to Sun City. Elders grew aged and sickly not upstairs in their own beds, but in a series of institutional venues: rest homes, nursing homes, hospital wards…And having lived their lives and died their deaths outside the home, they were taken to be laid out, not in the family parlor, but to the funeral parlor.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few weeks. I realize that my thoughts are scattered and they probably don’t make much sense, but they’re honest and I guess that’s what counts. So forgive me if this gets convoluted.

I’ve been thinking about how it bothers me that D is horror stricken by the idea of a home birth; not just because I’d prefer a home birth myself and his horror gets in the way, but because the basic premise of his horror is this: in his mind, civilized people simply don’t do homebirths. It isn’t the way things are done. In his mind, people go to hospitals and get hooked up to machines and have doctors tell them when to push the baby out.

In his mind, people go to nursing homes when they get old and funeral parlors when they die. In his mind, the best way to eat dinner is in front of the television. And he’s never questioned this. Not once.

Now I don’t mean to say anything negative about my husband. I’m simply trying to make a point. I think the vast majority of people in our society have the exact same things in their minds and have never questioned them. There’s just this certain way that things are done and it’s never crossed their minds that this certain way sells all our moments to nursing vendors or cable network sponsors and takes away the sense of community that truly makes us alive in all of these moments.

I don’t think the same way as D. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s because I just think too much so I’m always looking around for other options or if it’s because I read too much or listen to too many people talk or if it’s because I was just born this way. But I don’t think the same way at all. I think of birth and death and all the stuff in between and my immediate thought is to wonder where community fits into it and what the most normal, natural to way to go about it would be. It terrifies me how much community is taken from us each and every day and it terrifies me even more that we don’t even notice.

And it bothers me that everything is so complicated. There’s Medicare or Medicaid and direct deposit payments from pensions to nursing homes to make sure grandma and grandpa keep getting their dinner at 5:30 and weekly craft time on Wednesday from 1:00 – 3:00. We call the morgue and the mortician and we fight the funeral home for a better priced coffin and the perfect visiting hours and we ask the priest to pray, but never to give the dead space at the alter. We say goodbye to the dead in places we never said hello to them in the first place. And dating? I don’t even want to think about dating.

I just hate how un-natural and complicated and un-personal all the biggest things in life seem to feel.

I don’t want 12 nurses and my husband present at my baby’s birth. I want one person who knows what the hell they’re doing and all the rest of the people I love; D and Lisey and Velma and Cuthbert and Mia and J. Not because there’s anything fundamentally wrong with having a baby in a hospital – nothing wrong with that at all in my humble opinion, and that is what I’ll probably do – but because having a baby is one of those moments when you’re really alive and human and I can’t imagine that with only perfect strangers and without the people I love. Lisey had a baby last year and I got to be there with her husband and her mom and it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. There’s no way in hell I’d have sent her in to do that with just the nurses and her husband and without her mom and me. It would’ve seemed wrong, because we’re the people who love her and who love to see her being alive and human.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about nursing homes, too. I’m afraid to think of how to care for our parents because I’ve never seen anyone care for their aging parents. Granted, I’ve got awhile to sort it out, but it still scares the crap out of me. I don’t want my mom and dad in a nursing home. It just feels wrong to me. It feels impersonal and wrong and like I have failed at living community, somehow. I get that sometimes we have to do these things – send our parents to places where people can take care of them – but I don’t think I have the heart to do it myself.

But at the same time I’m petrified of the responsibility of caring for them, I think partly because of that crazy little expectation in our society; that all people who are capable work outside the home full time. If we don’t both work full time, we can’t buy all that neat crap we want, after all, and we can’t keep cable television *gasp!* (who are we kidding – LOST is on local TV. I’m all set). Caring for aging parents doesn’t mix well with 2 breadwinners. How would D react to my plea to stay home and take care of my mom? It was hard enough to convince him I ought to stay home and take care of our baby. But being cared for at home seems so much more natural and right than being in a facility on a weekly craft time schedule.

I don’t know where I’m going with this except to say I’m freaked out by how things are and I’m even more freaked out by the fact that society has actually scared me into thinking I can’t do things the way communities always meant them to be done. I can’t have a home birth, I can’t take care of my parents... I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. That’s what they tell me anyways. I’m trying very hard not to believe them.

I don’t mean to judge anyone who likes hospital births and fast paced dating or who had to send their parents to a nursing home, or whatever un-natural feeling thing someone might have had to do. I know people have to do what people have to do. I’m just scared that maybe ‘what we have to do’ isn’t really ‘what we have to do’ and we don’t even know it and we’re somehow being ripped off by our crazy Technicolor world.

Every time I start down this thought path, I think of Cuthbert telling me about an episode of ‘Judging Amy’ that stuck with him. I’ve never seen this show so forgive me if I get the details wrong, but the gist of it was this: A couple had a baby, but were splitting up. Mom had been Amish and wanted to go back to the Amish community. Dad wanted to hang out in corporate America. Judge Amy had to decide who the baby was going to go with. Dad could give baby everything he needed – intramural sports teams and play groups and a college fund. But when mom spoke…. she talked about her way of life and how baby would never need a babysitter because there were family and community all around; how baby would grow up in community with land and animals and family everywhere. Baby wouldn’t have a college fund. But baby would have all those simple things American culture forgot.

I don’t know what Judge Amy decided. That’s not really the point. The point is that there is something in me that just yearns for that simplicity and I think it’s so incredibly sad that simplicity has to be fought for so hard and it’s so incredibly scary to me that at times I forget to fight for it altogether. So when Lynch writes about the way things once were, it’s hard for me to put the book down, forget about it, and go about my day. I’m not sure I want to do away with all the unpleasantries because I have a feeling that by doing so, I’m doing away with the things that make us alive and human.

Like I said, I’m not totally sure where I’m going with this. I just wish that things were simpler.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The LOST Book was Weird and Creepy *spoiler warning*

So, a few weeks ago I gave you the top 10 things I had learned from LOST and told you I had a particular book on hold which would tell me the meaning of God and of life based on the TV show. I know, I know, you were all a little skeptical when the book sounded like it wanted to find definitive religious truths in a television show where Matthew Fox is a whiney little pain in my ass and where islands can move – if you know how to turn the right magical, icy wheel. Truth be told, I was a little skeptical too. But I persevered and put the book on hold, hoping to find the secrets of truth and honor inside its sad little pages. The book finally came out of hold and into my hand. And guess what – it was creepy and weird.

First of all, let’s look at the title. The authors called the book:
What Can Be Found In LOST: Insights on God and the Meaning of Life from the Popular TV Series

Unfortunately, they made a mistake in doing so. What they should have called the book is this:
Two Old Religious Guys Desperately Try To Make a Hit TV Series Relevant To Christianity, Even Though the Most Flattering Mention of Jesus in the Series Had to Do with Beating Someone With a Jesus Stick

Or perhaps this:
How to Use the Guise of a Popular Television Series to Trick People into Joining Your Religion

Either one would have been better, in my opinion. Now maybe it’s just me, but when I see a book that is supposed to give me ‘insights on God and the meaning of life’, I expect insights on God and the meaning of life. Insights, people. Insights. Not an instruction booklet detailing everything LOST got wrong from the Christian perspective and how to fix it so that we don’t all end up in hell. The longer I am away from the church the more I forget how asinine and infuriating Christian books can be, and how much it makes me want to puke when I’m directly told I won’t receive salvation if I don’t do X, Y, Z. Sorry guys, I didn’t interpret LOST correctly so I guess I’ll see you in the seventh circle of hell. That is the circle for people who don’t interpret TV shows correctly, right? I’ll have to check Dante on that one.

Secondly, don’t pretend you wrote a book about LOST if you really wrote a book about how you think everyone should follow your religious agenda. That’s trickery and it’s not nice. Also, it’s annoying. If you want to make friends with me and spend time with me and get to know my story and you end up sharing your story with me – which includes your religion – that’s one thing. I’m cool with that. If you want to write a book under false pretenses and tell me I’m going to hell unless I follow your instructions, that’s not so cool. I’d say that’s grounds for a beating with the Jesus Stick.

Thirdly, if something isn’t related to your religion, don’t try desperately to force it to be related. For example, I found an interesting insert in the book. It was titled Is Jack “Jesus”? Anyone who has seen this show knows that we’re all in a great deal of trouble if Jack is, indeed, Jesus. Last I checked he’s a whiney little thing hopped up on prescription painkillers hoping he’ll get into another plane crash. Oh, and his beard is making me cringe. But wait, maybe he’s “Jesus” (I’m still not sure what the quotations are all about). Want to know why he might be “Jesus”? Here’s why:

  • 'He performs CPR on Charlie, bringing him back from near death.’ Um, CPR is the same as raising the dead? By my estimation that makes everyone on Grey’s Anatomy “Jesus”. And maybe everyone on ER. I don’t know as I’ve never watched that show, but I’m just guessing. Oh, and one of the guys at work here is also apparently “Jesus” because he used the AED on some guy having a heart attack. “Jesus” is everywhere.
  • 'Jack leads the survivors to water, just as Jesus claimed to be the water of life.’ Seriously? All I have to do is get people water to be “Jesus”? I got D a whole water bottle last night, and I filled the pitcher in the fridge. I must be the second coming.
  • ‘Jack’s last name is Shepherd; Jesus is the good shepherd’. My last name is Puff; therefore all cream puffs were made in my likeness. And cotton puffs. And Coco Puffs, while we’re at it.

The lesson to be learned here is this: If you have to stretch into the realm of complete and utter ridiculousness, you probably haven’t really made a point at all.

Lastly, your ability to create an acronym is not sufficient motivation for me to join your religion. The last chapter in this sad little book is titled: “LOST: What To Do About It”, which kind of makes me giggle. Um, what am I going to do about LOST? Duh, I’m going to watch it. What else would I do about it except maybe shut it off when it gets too annoying? But our two authors have another idea. Clearly, the only thing to do about LOST is……. join their religion! Obviously. Why didn’t I think of that? The entire chapter consists of Ways To Abuse Acronyms, by turning the word LOST into something that can get you saved. In just 4 easy steps LOST can save your soul! Yes, yours! Simply follow these instructions:

Look to Jesus
Open your past to him
Start with a prayer of commitment
Take steps to grow in Christ

It’s that easy! Now aren’t you glad you watched LOST?

So that was kind of a random, TV show/book induced rant, wasn’t it? Here’s the thing: I’ll happily find some spiritual truths in LOST. I’ll happily find some good social themes in LOST. I’ll hunt down some beautiful story telling, lessons to learn, and strategies for building relationships. I would even feel okay with looking specifically at the Christian Bible and making some comparisons: themes of faith and redemption, for example. I love it when things in our popular culture go deep enough to give us something to think about. I love it when pop culture shows us things that are beautiful and helps us deal with things that are ugly. I think it’s wonderful. But when people from the church try to pick up anything they can possibly find and slap the label “Christian” onto it so that they can feel all special because they’re participating in pop culture, it just irritates me. LOST is not about Jesus Christ. Sorry.

Now, The Chronicles of Narnia – that might be about Jesus Christ. Have a go. Write a book about how Aslan is “Jesus”. You may actually come up with something that makes sense.

But in all seriousness, ye people of the mega-churches, stop trying so hard. It’s quite annoying.

Actually, it kind of makes me want to beat you with the Jesus Stick.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Undertaking I ~ "Tract"

I recently finished the book The Undertaking by Thomas Lynch. Lynch is both a poet and an undertaker by trade and has remarkable insight on the human condition as it applies to the living, the dead, and the living who are in the midst of dealing with the dead. There are a few different things I want to address from my reading of this book, hence the title of this blog is The Undertaking I. Part II and III will eventually follow, if I don’t completely lose my train of thought (not that that would ever happen…).

However, before I embark on all the things Mr. Lynch has brought to my attention, I want to share the beautiful ending of this book. Lynch ends the book with a short chapter on how he wants his own death to be handled. I know it sounds morbid and you might be wondering to yourself why on earth I decided that you’d be interested in it, but just hear me out. I love the way he insists that his death – and his life – be recognized as important events; that he doesn’t tell everyone not to grieve, but to do what must be done be it grieving, forgiving, remembering, forgetting. I love the way that even in his own death he recognizes that death is not about the dead – it is about the living who remain. It is dark, but it is beautiful. Dark & beautiful. Honestly, the two occur together so frequently it is often difficult for me to distinguish them. Lynch does beautiful work with the dark and the beautiful; the morbid and the practical; the living and the dead.

What I leave you with today is simply that last chapter, titled Tract. It’s a few pages long, so it may take some effort on your part. I promise you, it’s worth it.


Id rather it be in February. Not that it will matter much to me. Not that I’m a stickler for details. But since you’re asking – February. The month I first became a father, the month my father died. Yes. Better even than November.

I want it cold. I want the gray to inhabit the air like wood does trees: as an essence not a coincidence. And the hope for springtime, gardens, romance, dulled to a stump by the winter in Michigan.

Yes, February. With the cold behind and the cold before you and the darkness stubborn at the edges of the day. And a wind to make the cold more bitter. So that ever after it might be said, “It was a sad old day we did it after all.”

And a good frosthold on the ground so that, for nights before it is dug, the sexton will have had to go up and put a fire down, under the hood that fits the space, to soften the topsoil for the backhoe’s toothy bucket.

Wake me. Let those who want to come and look. They have their reasons. You’ll have yours. And if someone says, “Doesn’t he look natural!” take no offense. They’ve got it right. For this was always in my nature. It’s in yours.

And have the clergy take their part in it. Let them take their best shot. If they’re ever going to make sense to you, now’s the time. They’re looking, same as the rest of us. The questions are more instructive than the answers. Be wary of anyone who knows what to say.

As for music, suit yourselves. I’ll be out of earshot, stone deaf. A lot can be said for pipers and tinwhistlers. But consider the difference between a funeral with a few tunes and a concert with a corpse down front. Avoid, for your own sakes, anything you’ve heard in the dentist’s office or the roller rink.

Poems might be said. I’ve had friends who were poets. Mind you, they tend to go on a bit. Especially around horizontal bodies. Sex and death are their principle studies. It is here where the services of an experienced undertaker are most appreciated. Accustomed to being personae non grata, they’ll act the worthy editor and tell the bards when it’s time to put a sock in it.

On the subject of money: you get what you pay for. Deal with someone whose instincts you trust. If anyone tells you you haven’t spent enough, tell them to go piss up a rope. Tell the same thing to anyone who says you spent too much. Tell them to go piss up a rope. It’s your money. Do what you want with it. But let me make one thing perfectly clear. You know the type who’s always saying, “When I’m dead, save your money, spend it on something really useful, do me cheaply”? I’m not one of them. Never was. I’ve always thought that funerals were useful. So do what suits you. It is yours to do. You’re entitled to wholesale on most of it.

As for guilt – it’s much overrated. Here are the facts in the case at hand: I’ve known the love of the ones who have loved me. And I’ve known that they’ve known that I’ve loved them, too. Everything else, in the end, seems irrelevant. But if guilt is the thing, forgive yourself, forgive me. And if a little upgrade in the pomp and circumstance makes you feel better, consider it money wisely spent. Compared to shrinks and pharmaceuticals, bartenders or homeopaths, geographical or ecclesiastical cures, even the priciest funeral is a bargain.

I want a mess made in the snow so that the earth looks wounded, forced open, an unwilling participant. Forego the tent. Stand openly to the weather. Get the larger equipment out of sight. It’s a distraction. But have the sexton, all dirt and indifference, remain at hand. He and the hearse driver can talk of poker or trade jokes in whispers and straight-face while the clergy tender final commendations. Those who lean on shovels and fill holes, like those who lean on custom and old prayers, are, each of them, experts in the one field.

And you should see it till the very end. Avoid the temptation of tidy leavetaking in a room, a cemetery chapel, at the foot of the alter. None of that. Don’t dodge it because of the weather. We’ve fished and watched football in worse conditions. It won’t take long. Go to the hole in the ground. Stand over it. Look into it. Wonder. And be cold. But stay until it’s over. Until it is done.

On the subject of pallbearers – my darling sons, my fierce daughter, my grandsons and granddaughters, if I’ve any. The larger muscles should be involved. The ones we use for the real burdens. If men and their muscles are better at lifting, women and theirs are better at bearing. This is a job for which both may be needed. So work together. It will lighten the load.

Look to my beloved for the best example. She has a mighty heart, a rich internal life, and powerful medicines.

After the words are finished, lower it. Leave the ropes. Toss the gray gloves in on top. Push the dirt in and be done. Watch each other’s ankles, stamp your feet in the cold, let your heads sink between your shoulders, keep looking down. That’s where what is happening is happening. And when you’re done, look up and leave. But not until you’re done.

So, if you opt for burning, stand and watch. If you cannot watch it, perhaps you should reconsider. Stand in earshot of the sizzle and the pop. Try to get a whiff of the goings on. Warm your hands to the fire. This might be a good time for a song. Bury the ashes, cinders, the bones. The bits of the box that did not burn.

Put them in something

Mark the spot.

Feed the hungry. It’s good form. Feed them well. This business works up an appetite, like going to the seaside, walking the cliff road. After that, be sober.

This is none of my business. I won’t be there. But if you’re asking, here is free advice. You know the part where everybody is always saying that you should have a party now? How the dead guy always insisted he wanted everyone to have a good time and toss back a few and laugh and be happy? I’m not one of them. I think the old teacher is right about this one. There is a time to dance. And it just may be this isn’t one of them. The dead can’t tell the living what to feel.

They used to have this year of mourning. Folks wore armbands, black clothes, played no music in the house. Black wreathes were hung at the front doors. The damaged were identified. For a full year you were allowed your grief – the dreams and sleeplessness, the sadness, the rage. The weeping and giggling in all the wrong places. The catch in your breath at the sound of the name. After a year, you would be back to normal. “Time heals” is what was said to explain this. If not, of course, you were pronounced some version of “crazy” and in need of some professional help.

Whatever’s there to feel, feel it – the riddance, the relief, the fright and freedom, the fear of forgetting, the dull ache of your own mortality. Go home in pairs. Warm to the flesh that warms you still. Get with someone you can trust with tears, with anger, and wonderment and utter silence. Get that part done – the sooner the better. The only way around these things is through them.

I know I shouldn’t be going on like this.

I’ve had this problem all my life. Directing funerals.

It’s yours to do – my funeral – not mine. The death is yours to live with once I’m dead.

So here is a coupon good for Disregard. And here is another marked My Approval. Ignore, with my blessings, whatever I’ve said beyond Love One Another.

Live Forever.

All I really wanted was a witness. To say I was. To say, daft as it still sounds, maybe I am.

To say, if they ask you, it was a sad day after all. It was a cold, gray day.


Of course, any other month you’re on your own. Have no fear – you’ll know what to do. Go now, I think you are ready.