A little over a year ago singer Amy Winehouse died.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Winehouse, she was an immensely talented singer and songwriter who won five Grammy awards off of two albums, whose immense talent was only rivaled by her drug and alcohol addiction.
I don’t own any of Winehouse’s albums, so I can’t really comment on her music or life. I had heard “Rehab” on the radio, loved her voice and was drawn to her pop / jazz / R & B fusion that I heard, but my knowledge of her music and life didn’t extend beyond that.
Winehouse died from an overdose of alcohol (her blood alcohol level was five times the legal driving limit) joining the “Forever 27” club of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, who all died at the age of 27, with Joplin being the only one who didn’t die from drug abuse.
I have an addictive personality. So, I’m glad that I never touched drugs.
I’m also thankful, that – although I’ve had friends who have used – I’ve never lost a friend to drugs.
I really don’t have much of a right to comment on drugs and drug addiction with any authority.
All I can do is comment vicariously from the various families, whose paths we’ve crossed as they’ve traversed the last stage of their loved one’s drug drama.
And there are two themes that I’ve heard: 1.) drugs are some of the most insidious evils to befall humanity. 2.) there may be something worse than death.
I’ve heard a number of parents express to us that death was a welcome event for their drug addicted child. Such a view of death – I must admit – makes no sense to me. I can’t grasp something so awful that death is better than living.
The ups and downs a parent experiences as their love inevitably intimately connects them to their beloved addict. It’s as though they (the parents) go into the world of addiction, experiencing all the downs without the highs, living life on the edge, with all the fear the addict sees, but without the adrenaline rush.
Now that I am a parent, I’m beginning to understand what it’s like to have another life become more important than my own, where I feel the pain of the scrapped knee; where I too feel the failure of being cut from the team. Of course I love my wife more than I love myself, but … from what I understand … the love of a parent to a child is of an entirely different kind, where the child’s joys, fears and pain become our own.
So, how must a parent of a drug addicted child feel?
What’s it like to never know where your child’s at, who your child is with … if this night is indeed the last. To feel a powerless love, where all you want is freedom for your child, but realizing all your love has no power over the power of drug addiction. The tears, the prayers, the worrying, anxiety, the questions … “What did I do wrong? What can I do to change him?” The insanity of loving someone who is destroying themselves as well as you. To have hope killed relapse after relapse.
And then the story ends.
The police end up at your front door and you already know what they’re about to say, but the tears still come … you’ve been waiting for this day. “Ma’am, I regret to inform you that your son is dead.” Word’s you’ve expected.
Is there something worse than death? I don’t know. And I hope you don’t know either.
I have the privilege of working in a multigenerational context. Most of the people we bury are from an era that was dominated by post-depression economics, World War II and a slow paced life that is hard to understand in today’s world.
Joe Paterno is from that generation.
He was a throwback to another world that only exists in the memories of a group of men and women who are quickly becoming extinct. Joe was part of a remnant of a world long past who somehow managed to be relevant in the present.
If fact, there’s few like Joe. If you had asked me a couple months ago, “Who do you know that fought in WWII and is still in the work force?” The only answer I could’ve given you was, “JoePa.”
And today he died.
A relic from a world past who managed to not only thrive in the present, but bring his old-school mentality with him. Which is both why he was loved so tremendously by the student body and alumni of Penn State and it’s also why Sandusky was allowed to happen.
The WWII generation can stake legitimate claim to the Greatest Generation … they were a great people (many of whom I’ve known in life and death) who had a tendency to be silent about things we (gen x’ers and millennials) want to talk about.
This “let’s not talk about it” attitude was most likely a product of all their gruesome experiences from WWII, stories that no doubt made them question their own goodness, the goodness of others and the goodness of the world. Would you want to talk about how you brutally murdered a young German with your knife while you both wrestled around in a fight for life? Would you want to talk about experiences like watching your close friends get blown to pieces?
And maybe their perspective is the right one … maybe the activism of the 60s and 70s … our tendency to protest … our love to speak out our views … our social media … has caused us to talk too much … to speak our opinion too much … to call people out too much.
Where we vocalized, they kept silent. Where we talk about our faith, they simply went to church. Where we need a shrink, they wanted silence. But this didn’t mean they were inactive; they did, after all, stop one of the biggest bullies to have ever existed.
I can guarantee that JoePa knew nearly all the details of Sandusky’s sordid raping of young boys. And I can guarantee that JoePa hated it. And I can guarantee that he simply went old school on it by brushing it under the rug.
Was it right? No!
Can I understand the attitude of his generation? The way they dealt with difficulty? Yes.
In the Jewish funeral tradition (the “Jewish remembrance” style), it’s proper to speak both the good and the bad about the deceased. In Protestant funeral tradition (the “Protestant remembrance” style), the good is remembered and the bad is forgotten. Joe Paterno’s life – sullied by his miserable failure to stop Sandusky’s raping of boys – will not be privileged with a “Protestant remembrance”. His failures – as egregious and public as they are — will not, should not, be overlook, but, I think, it can – to some degree — be understood.
And, despite our opinion of this last chapter of JoePa’s life, hopefully we can acknowledge his greatness and his dark failure and then allow him and his family to rest in peace.
What are your thoughts?
Have you ever had a horrible dream or premonition that you were going to die?
If you were able to answer that question, thankfully the premonition has yet to come true.
99.99% of the time those premonitions don’t come true, unless you’re Mikey Welsh.
Mikey Welsh was the former bassist for Weezer (of “The Sweater Song” fame) and he tweeted the following on September 26:
On October 8th he died in his sleep … at Chicago … from an overdose … that supposedly threw his heart into cardiac arrest.
Or is it.
Would you, if you could, like to know your death date?
I have a buddy and his grandfather supposedly has such premonitions. He’s predicted five deaths within his family; and although he didn’t know who was going to die, he did know THAT someone was going to die. Now, apparently, he let’s everyone know when the premonitions come to him … gives everyone a nice, scary, keep you on the edge of your seat, you might be next, forewarning.
I’ve often thought that if euthanasia becomes uber popular and easily accessible with no terminal rational that we could fix our death dates and instead of funerals we could have massive going away (permanently) parties.
Did Mikey Predict his own death?
Or did he just take his death into his own hands? I don’t know … we’ll let the medical examiner make that determination.
But, and here’s the $1000 question: If you could control when you die (within reason), would you?
Church funerals often cause a proxemics dilemma. The dilemma comes into play when the family wants the open casket in the front of sanctuary.
When the time comes for the family to say their last good-byes before the lid’s closed, they have to do something incredibly intimate and tearful in a public setting, with often a hundred or so onlookers watching as they cover their deceased loved one with the blanket, give a final kiss good-bye and say their last “I love you.”
The way we solve the dilemma is by having the pall bearers come forward and surround the family, creating a human wall so to speak, which allows the family to let all their humanity out before the lid is closed.
Celebrity deaths create the same dilemma. And there’s nobody who uses that dilemma better than Westboro Baptist Church.
“Dumb ass. He had it coming.” That was my first thought when I heard about Jackass member Ryan Dunn’s death.
Ryan’s accident occurred roughly 20 miles from my house. Maybe you’ve read about it, or watched the video of Bam weeping at the crash site and heard that Ryan’s BAC was twice the legal limit when he crashed his Porsche at 130 mph, killing himself and Zachary Hartwell.
What should the public’s response be to Ryan Dunn’s death? We’re entitled to a response, right? I mean, he was a celebrity, he has a lot of young people who identify with him; and, his stupidity killed himself and his newly married passenger, leaving their friends and family with the ambiguous grief that has you wishing you could both punch and embrace the deceased all at once.
When you put your life in the public’s eye, the public is entitled to look into your death as well. Right?
Roger Ebert felt entitled to comment when he tweeted, “Friends don’t let jackasses drive drunk”. To which Bam Mergera replied in 139 characters, “I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterically for a full day and piece of s*** roger ebert has the gall to put in his 2 cents”.
MTV took a surprising moral stance when they stated, “even someone as seemingly immortal as the daredevil couldn’t survive the risk of drinking and driving.”
And, of course, the lovely people from Westboro embraced their right with this pithy comment: “(the) drab pervert hawked … filth to get rich off a perverse generation.” And, they plan to protest his funeral.
And I wonder if those of us who want to use Ryan’s death as an object lesson aren’t so different from Westboro? I wonder if my response wasn’t that different? We might not have the same message, but are we using the same means?
Grief is sacred.
Grief is holy. It should be treated with reverence and maybe Bam’s response was right. When someone dies, shouldn’t we walk softly, speak graciously and allow for privacy? And while it may be true that Dunn’s friends are celebrities, today they’re mourners.
This sacredness of grief is the reason so many of us hate the Westboro picketers, who picket the funerals of fallen soldiers, and any other funeral that can grab them some limelight. We dislike what they’re doing because it transgresses one of the most sacred aspects of both our love and our humanity: the grief that comes from the loss of personal love.
As tempting as it is to use Dunn’s tragedy as an object lesson for the living, the lesson we should learn here is that even the celebrities that Dunn’s death affected need the space and permission to be human … they need the public to turn their back. They deserve the space to grieve … as humans, they need the grace to grieve the loss of the person Ryan Dunn, their friend, that I too easily turned into an object for a life lesson.
What do you think is the right response? Are we wrong to say something, or are we wrong to say nothing?
The funeral business is one of the few businesses where payment is based almost purely on trust. You go to the grocery store, you pay right away … there’s no IOUs. You buy a car, you either pay up front or you get your credit run to make sure you can front the load. You buy a house, same deal as buying a car.
But the funeral business, you can beat us pretty easily. And as I’ve mentioned before, getting beat happens too often. People will come in, pick out a rather expensive casket, expensive vault, etc. with no intention of every paying for it.
Some funeral homes will make families pay upfront, but we’ve never been able to bring ourselves to do that.
The trust and goodhearted grace that exists around death is the reason why funerals allow for the BEST in humanity, and — for those who are selfishly advantageous with that trust – the WORST in humanity.
The worst includes some pretty and petty imaginable things, like siblings somehow writing their other siblings out of Dad’s will. Fighting over money is typical.
The Westboro Baptist Church protesting funerals is a rather well chronicled example of the worst in people coming out around death.
But, there’s been some rather creative douches. For instance, a couple years ago all the bronze military markers that are placed by a deceased serviceman’s grave … the one’s that hold the flags … began to disappear in our area. Turns out some losers were stealing them from the graves and selling them to the local scrap yard for a couple bucks.
Perhaps the latest acts surrounding the death of Ryan Dunn display even greater acts of douchery.
As the photo above captures, guys are scrumming through the accident site, picking up pieces of the destroyed Porsche with the hope of being able to sell the pieces on Ebay. Awesome display of humanity. The only positive to actions like this is that it farther forestalls any possible alien attack on earth, as such actions probably confirm to the aliens that we’re not a comparative power threat … we’re a parasite threat.