Archive for October, 2011
At midnight tonight, the spirits of the dead will dwell with us.
We will honor and welcome the spirits of our deceased loved ones by gathering together with our very-much-still-alive loved ones for the next two or three days.
Together, we’ll celebrate by building ofrendas. And on these ofrendas we’ll place items that remind us of our lost friends and relatives. We’ll honor their memory with our memories of their lives as we sit around our houses, play cards, play games, listen to music and reminisce about times past.
In fact, we’ll celebrate so richly, with so many people, so many games, so much food and so many colorful decorations that we’ll spend two months worth of our yearly income on our feasts with family and friends.
We’ll celebrate so fully, so genuinely in remembering the dead that we’ll create life.
And we’d do all of this if we lived in Mexico and celebrated Dia de los Muetros, the Day of the Dead.
Actually, though, if we (as the enlightened of the first world) lived in Mexico we’d probably condemn the whole national holiday as naive, bordering sinful.
1.) We’d condemn the fact that venerating the dead is a plight of the third-world amalgamation between supernaturalism and the occult.
2.) We’d joke about the stupidity of spending two months of your income on three days of partying. How prodigious.
3.) The evangelicals would remind those ignorant Mexicans that the spirits of the dead are either in heaven or hell, and can’t *really* come back to earth for a short vacation … in fact, anything that does come back is probably demonic.
4.) Or, if we were a religious materialist, we’d poke fun at the whole antiquated idea of spirits, the afterlife and their supposed visitation of us.
5.) And then we’d condemn the whole holiday and everyone who participated in it.
But, I really wonder if this holiday is all bad?
Sure, it’s not healthy to look at the dead as needing appeasement via food offerings, etc. Neither is it healthy to worship the deceased (in which case, funeral directors would be priests?).
But, I think the Mexican’s relationship to death is healthier than the Wests.
Here, we internalize our memories, hardly ever sharing and never remembering in a corporate setting.
Here, we mourn silently, never recognizing that in some way, in some capacity, whether literally or figuratively, the dead still dwell with us. That in us — in the present state of all humanity — lays the heritage of humanity’s past. In you, the reality of the past is still very much present. But in the West, we ignore that presence of the past, where in Mexico its celebrated.
Sure, maybe some of the practices on The Day of the Dead are worthy of condemnation. But, not celebrating, not remembering, not joining together in a corporate setting to conjure up the lives of old … not doing these things condemns our future.
Over the next couple days, I want to join with the hundreds of millions around the world and solemnly celebrate both All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Days (Nov. 2). Unless you’re Catholic, these religious holidays might not be familiar to you. But they underscore a healthy relationship to the past that most of us have both neglected and forgotten.
And, in the spirit of joining in this Mexican holiday, and in anticipating the beginning of a small, but intentional solemn celebration here at my blog over the next two days, I have two questions for you: in what ways do the spirits of your past friends and relatives dwell with you? What heritage have they left you that lives on in you today?
On Tuesday, I posted the first five writing tips to a spicy obit. Today, I’ll conclude with the final five tips to help your obituary along the path to awesomeness.
6. If you have the chance, write it yourself.
OLAIS, HENRY “HANK” JR. I am writing my own obituary because one year ago I learned I had brain cancer specifically, Glioblastoma Multiforme IV. This was after 17 hours in the emergency room. Initially I thought I was having a stroke but an MRI proved me wrong. I was given about one year to live and told to get my affairs in order. Hence, I got to write my own obituary. … The highlight of my life was meeting the most accomplished woman I had ever met, Barbara (Harrison). We married and continued to work together to attain our goals. She is the greatest partner anyone could find in life and I feel so privileged that she agreed to marry me. For the next 25+ years, while challenges continued, we stood by each other growing in love, respect and friendship.
7. Mention the deceased’s life long love affair with bodily functions:
“Glen enjoyed reading, film, live music, flying, travel and booze…Glen was also greatly amused by farts and was often heard to say ‘Who Farted?’ He loved to laugh at himself as well as others.”
8. Or, mention their life long love affair with giving everyone they knew peculiar nicknames:
9. And, if you’re in the habit of making up names, maybe you could just make up a fake obituary.
Waldo, 36, is missing and presumed dead. “We Gave up looking for him years ago.” Said a spokesman for a local search team. “In the past we’d scour the earth, buy every time we’d find him he’d take off again. Finally, we put his picture on a mild carton and said the hell with it.” Other reactions were mixed.” It was a case of sibling rivalry,” said Carmen Sandiego a half-sister. “Waldo tried to outdo me by hiding in shopping malls and outdoor rock concerts. These had no educational value, so it’s no wonder people stopped caring.” “The little deadbeat owed us for 20,000 tasseled caps, said a spokesman for the Acme Headgear Co. “Now we’re filing for bankruptcy, thanks to him.” A memorial service for Waldo will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at an unspecified location. Those wishing to attend will have to find it for themselves.
10. You can mention your gifts/talents. And if I was a woman, and I bought designer bras, I would appreciate this deceased woman’s gift.
Selma Koch, a Manhattan store owner who earned a national reputation by helping women find the right bra size, mostly through a discerning glance and never with a tape measure, died Thursday at Mount Sinai Medical Center. She was 95 and a 34B.
A couple years ago we buried a young man who died from an overdose.
And while the death from overdose probably wasn’t slow, the process leading to the death was.
He started using in middle school and his addiction continued on to his death at 25 years of age.
Everyone expected it, including his mother.
Most of the funerals we have for drug users are very somber. Most have an air of self-reflection. One segment of the funeral goers have a guilt that asks, “what could I have done to prevent this?” … of wondering what could have been. Another part of the attendees are his friends, many of whom are also users, who are wondering, “This could have been me … it will be me ….”
But this funeral was different.
In place of heaviness, there was buoyancy … a buoyancy that started with the person who usually carries the bulk of the ‘what could I have done to prevent this?” heaviness.
It came from his mom.
I for one couldn’t understand why she was so content, so I asked her and her answer still haunts me.
She said, “Do you know how many sleepless nights we stayed awake worrying about our son? Do you know how many people hurt for him and how many people he hurt? This addiction just wouldn’t go away. There are worse things than death.”
So, being the believer that I am, I’ve been wondering, “Is God – like the mother of this young man — ever contented in death?”
This question has been both weighty and practical as I’ve considered the death of Gaddafi.
As I’ve considered this question, I realize that God is love.
And I’ve also realized that our view of God’s love is so white.
It’s so nice. And proper. And happy.
A product of middle to upper class sensibilities and emotional luxuries.
A product of our severe lack of abuse, our lack of being exploited, of being used.
Many of us – and I include myself in “us” — only have a conceptualization of evil that lacks experience. We look at the Old Testament and we’re disgusted by the prayers of King David. We’re disgusted by the wars, the deaths.
Because our view of life is vanilla, un-darkened by the stains of pain and blood.
Sheltered from the evils and injustices of our privileged perspective, we have defined love from middle class, white sensibilities.
And we’ve come to have such a fuzzy view of goodness that we simply can’t understand what it’s like to have our whole family brutally raped, killed, and then dismembered by the crazed foot soldiers of a purely satanic megalomaniacal tyrant.
Gaddafi was a tyrant … a tyrant who had an addiction to power that wasn’t going away.
Do the likes of Gaddafi cause God to “stay awake at night”, worrying about what he’s going to do, who he’s going to maim, kill or destroy?
In Ezekiel chapters 18 and 33 it states that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
But I wonder if he may have made an exception for Gaddafi. Cause, there are some things worse than death.
1. Add random, nonessential, odd information. Example:
2. As displayed in Fred Clarke’s obituary, you can add an implied curse word for some spice, and then go on to mention bacon. In fact, if your family finds a way to mention bacon in your obituary, it’s almost guaranteed that you were winning at life.
(Fred) wouldn’t abide self important tight *censored*.
During his life he excelled at mediocrity. He loved to hear and tell jokes, especially short ones due to his limited attention span. He had a life long love affair with bacon, butter, cigars and bourbon. You always knew what Fred was thinking much to the dismay of his friend and family. His sons said of Fred, “he was often wrong, but never in doubt”. When his family was asked what they remembered about Fred, they fondly recalled how Fred never peed in the shower – on purpose.
Fred’s obit is quite funny. You can read the rest of it here.
3. You can add a humorous, touching yet snarky quip like the one Robert James Smith‘s wife wrote in his obituary:
Robert James (Bob) Smith, 69, of Wilmington, North Carolina, surprised and annoyed his wife by dying in his sleep in the early hours of January 6, 2005.
4. Or, you can skip the humorous and snarky part and major on the touching, exemplified by Stephen Schleis’ obit:
Before his passing on Sunday, Stephen Schleis had forged an 84-year-old trail of laughter, generosity, compassion and wisdom. He was more than a role model to his family. He was a hero.
He raised his five children in a modest three-bedroom home that he and his wife built in Barberton. Their love made it a castle.
Steve broke his back serving in the Navy duringWorld War II. For 30 years, he found comfort sleeping on the living room floor. Each morning, his children rolled him over so he could crawl to the corner and “walk” himself up the wall. Then we sent him off to work two factory jobs so we could afford private school and an in-ground swimming pool and basketball court on our quarter-acre lot — things he was far too busy to ever enjoy.
He wouldn’t eat until everyone in his household had their plates full. He never complained if he missed out on the apple pie or the warm rolls. Even at the end, confused by dementia and eating pureed food, he wouldn’t take a bite without whispering: “You first.” …
5. Or, you can bypass the touchy type obituary and just say it like it is … like the writer of this obituary did for a Mr. Roosevelt Conway:
If we could give the honest pill to Muammar al-Gaddafi’s obituary writer, I wonder if it’d look something like this:
Muammar al-Gaddafi died violently on Thursday, October 20th at the hands of the people he had sadistically oppressed for decades.
He was the son of a wondering nomad, and the world wishes he would have followed in the footsteps of his father, learning the ways of his father instead of copying the Sith Lord.
Some speculate that Gaddafi may have been the richest person in the world, as he not only brutally murdered his people, but he managed to both exploit the land of its oil and the people who lived in it. He so naturally ate the wealth of the land and spit the left over trash to its people that he can aptly be described as an ass hole.
Gaddafi leaves behind, in addition to his estranged wife, four narcissistic sons, one of whom is named “Hannibal”, all of whom have abused their privileges, wealth, their nanny and even the family Chihuahua ”Stalin”; and one daughter, who is best known for being on Saddam Hussin’s legal counsel (is there anything more wicked than not only being a lawyer but being a lawyer who defends Saddam Hussin?).
He was predeceased by three sons, all who died violently at the hands of those they oppressed.
When asked to listen to his fellow North African leaders, Gaddafi once stated, “I am an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam (leader) of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level”. Ironically, he made this statement while dressing like the King of Pop (see photo on left).
International leader: False.
Dean of Arab rulers: Lie.
King of Kings of Africa: This one is actually true, as a group of African tribal leaders bestowed the title on him after he *asked* them to do so.
Imam of Muslims: Bull.
In addition to being indicted on charges of crimes against humanity, which included feeding Viagra to his soldiers so they’d rape civilians more often, and killing untold numbers of his own people, he also had the generosity to set up the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, which was bestowed by Gaddafi himself on other great humanitarians such as Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro.
All enemies and haters are invited to view his body, which is currently being stored in a meat market outside of the city of Misrata.
Shortly before his death, Gaddafi was recorded as repeatedly telling his captors, “This is a sin for you to do this!”
What Gaddafi saw as sin, the world — and maybe even God — believe to be righteousness.
Gaddafi’s family would like to remind the other tyrants of the world to watch Star Wars observantly; and learn that those who live by the Dark Side, usually die by it.
In sum, Gaddafi was one part Donald Trump, one part 70s porn star, one part Lord Sith, wrapped up in a Mid-Eastern version of Michael Jackson’s wardrobe; a man whose death is more celebrated than his life, and whose dead body is being disrespected so that those he oppressed can find a semblance of self-respect.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the “Support Gaddafi as the Prince of Darkness in 2012″ Revolution Campaign fund. All proceeds will benefit Gaddafi’s attempt to supplant Satan as the ruler of Hell.