Many cultures would politely disagree. For some, not only are there different degrees of dead, but they also like to keep the bodies around until they concur that the person is 100% dead, or at least 100% able to proceed to the next world, wherever that may happen to be. Of course, in the interim, the almost-dead still have to eat, so people in these cultures continue to serve food to their undead relatives, usually foods that were favorites of the person when they were 100% alive. Sometimes the type and amount of food served to the formerly-vibrant family member depends on how dead – or almost-dead – he or she happens to be.
It’s possible that the practice of feasting after a funeral originated with early people who were determined to send their dead off with some nourishment for the journey. And whatever was left over, well, at least the living could eat it. Some cultures took this to extremes by placing a tube in the mouth of a corpse before burial, and snaking it out of the casket and up through six feet of compacted dirt. This was to ensure that the deceased would continue to receive nourishment during the long journey into the afterlife, or at long as somebody remembered to put food in the tube.
But a long journey for mourners attending a funeral may have also been responsible for the development of some death food customs. After all, it would take a number of days for word to travel about a deceased relative living in a distant village, and then an equal number of days to travel to view the body and visit with the mourners. If the grieving family expected others to come, they had to be prepared to feed them.
For most cultures today, sharing a meal after the funeral has become pretty standard; indeed, it’s considered rude to refuse. In any case, there’s no better way to prove you’re alive, as compared with the body in the box you’ve just said farewell to, than by eating. Actually, most people would include sex in their response, and indeed, food combined with carnal hunger can sometimes provide a double dose of post-funeral vitality, not to mention a jump in the birth rate exactly nine months later.
However, as funerals become more of a do-it-yourself proposition – not the embalming, mind you –with more people taking charge of planning their own funeral services with a mind towards turning it into a party instead of a sobfest, thanks in part to the popularity of the TV show Six Feet Under, learning about the funeral practices of other cultures can only help us put the fun into funeral.
Some people may believe it’s distasteful to spend time thinking about how death and food are so interconnected – after all, both are an essential part of life – but I’d like to think that many more are intrigued by discovering the differences, as well as the similarities. And my book Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the World – which I’ve recently reissued as an e-book after being out of print for years – is chock-full of both differences and similarities.
Here’s how Egypt does it:
Today, Egyptian culture is primarily Muslim, and funeral customs in the country generally follow traditional Islamic principles, including the distribution of food to area poor.
But aside from today’s Islamic rituals, Egyptian funeral food has a long and illustrious past. In fact, possibly the first time you learned that food was connected with funerals – aside from attending one of a relative – was in history class when you got to the chapter about the Egyptians and the Pyramids. Though evidence of fancy, elaborate feasts that lasted for days was uncovered by archaeologists working inside the pyramids, the common Egyptian also received a funerary feast send-off into the next world. In fact, the earliest known Egyptian funerals show proof of food offerings to the dead, both to the newly deceased and to the family’s ancestors. It seems that the living always went all out, as if to ensure a place for the deceased as well as an opportunity to get in good with the gods upstairs for when their time comes.
Everything from beer and wine, cakes, and even the intact head of a bull were used as funeral offerings in ancient Egypt. This makes sense, when you consider that in the days of ancient Egypt, each man was expected to devote one-fifth or more of the value of his estate to the cost of his funeral, which included feeding all the guests – both the living relatives and the dead ancestors.
In Ancient Egypt, chocolate was very much prized as a rare and expensive delicacy, the better to send the deceased off to the other side. Today, few mourners – in Egypt and elsewhere – would find fault with digging into a big hunk of chocolate cake at a funeral, wake or memorial.
Ancient Egyptian Chocolate Cake
1-3/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 ounces (4 squares) semi-sweet baker’s chocolate
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Chill mixing bowl and beaters. Whip the cream until stiff, add slowly the vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon. Do not overbeat!
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the coffee and chocolate over low heat until chocolate is melted. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer on low speed, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Add the vanilla and the chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the coffee-chocolate mixture and the flour mixture, beating until smooth.
Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Pour the batter into the pans. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool in pans on rack for 15 minutes. Invert pans and cool cakes on rack completely.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting. Using a chilled mixing bowl and beaters, whip the cream until stiff. Slowly add the vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon. Chill until ready.
Frost when cake is cool. Refrigerate after use.
Today’s incredible guest post was brought to us by author and journalist, Lisa Rogak. Lisa is the author of “Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs From Around the World.”
She is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books. Her works have been mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, Parade Magazine, USA Today, Family Circle, and hundreds of other publications, and she has appeared on Oprah. Her book Haunted Heart: The Life & Times of Stephen King was nominated for an Edgar.
You can also visit her website, www.lisarogak.com.
On Tuesday morning all I knew was that I was setting up an O’Connor table at the Heartland Hospice event that we were co-hosting. I got the table cloth & brochures all set out, greeted the attendees, and sat down in the back intending to “work” on my computer when the speaker, Barbara Karnes, a hospice nurse of 32 years, began speaking.
She said, “I don’t want to pretend that this is all Truth with a Capitol T.
This is MY experience.
Dying is the hardest thing we live through.”
(and you do live through it, that is, until you die)
That got my attention. I had the privilege of sitting for the next two hours hearing the stories and wisdom of this nurse. I typed out as much as I could of what she said, filling up 4 pages of notes and still not capturing all the information. –
Here are some of the incredible insights she gave me about death that Tuesday morning:
“We don’t die like the movies” - She mentioned scenes in movies where the dying person looks beautiful and radiant, perhaps they’re imparting some incredible words of wisdom that wrap up the whole story perfectly and then, they die . . . “This is not how people die,” she said. When people are dying of disease or cancer, the kind of people she gets to work with on hospice. “They don’t have the energy to speak, and if they are speaking, you probably can’t hear or understand what they are saying.”
“If they are a controlling person, they will control how and when they die” - She said that protective spouses or parents want to spare their loved ones from being there when they die. They will wait until they are alone to let go. She also said that if they want you there when they are going to die, then that is what will happen.
“No one dies alone” - Barbara said that all her years of experience have convinced her that we are ushered into the “other world” by the loved ones that have gone before them. She recounted the story of a 23 year old girl she was caring for whose brother died 3 weeks before she eventually would. The family chose not to tell her about his passing but shortly afterward all she could talk about was “Jim, Jim, Jim,” her brother. Her boyfriend thought she was confused, but then she looked at him and said, “No, I know who you are, Jim is here and says he’s going to take care of me.” Barbara recounted other stories like this, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a dry eye in that room.
“Dying is always, always sad, it will never be ok. but it doesn’t have to be BAD.” - this is how you take something scary and negative and make it into a more normal and natural process that helps neutralize the fear.
Barbara inspired me and gave me truth and honesty about an element of life most of us know very little about. She changed how I see dying. She spoke about it with so much familiarity, knowledge, comfort and gentleness that it took out so much of the frightening mystery that dying is cloaked in. It will never be ok, but it doesn’t have to be bad or frightening.
What do you think of Barbara’s premises?’
In your experience, have you seen any of these played out?
Today’s guest post is from Jessica Charles. This from Jessica: I am Corporal Joshua Alexander Harton’s Big Sister. I am his sister and I protected him his whole life. That is until September 18th, 2010 when a bullet from Taliban’s rifle went through his neck, cutting his carotid artery, moving through his torso and destroying organs and finally leaving his body at the left hip and shattering his Kevlar armor. I am Josh’s sister and I need you to know that my little brother is dead and my epic life will never be the same again.
What is living with PTSD like?
Uh, it is like….ummm well, you know.
And then people think Rambo:First Blood or some recent tragedy where a returning soldier kills his ex wife and her boyfriend.
It is NOT like that.
It is a lot like Finding Nemo, the kids’ movie where a father crosses an improbable ocean to save his son learning lessons on the way.
Try and remember the movie and I will outline it as I go. This explanation should be so simple that even civilians can follow.
The movie starts with Mommy fish and Daddy fish (Pearl and Marlin) admiring their new home and envisioning the future life of their many children. Then tragedy strikes. A big fish eats the babies and the mommy fish defends them, she also dies (And I thought Bambi was bad).
Marlin has PTSD. Marlin spends the next few years (or however long it takes in fish time) protecting his son from EVERYTHING, because in truth, the world is a scary place and it will kill you. And it would seem paranoid and crazy except that Marlin is often proven right.
His son dares to leave the safety zone and is kidnapped. Marlin follows and is almost devoured by sharks, blown up, eaten by a monster fish with a flashlight, lost, shocked by jellyfish and lost again only to be eaten by a whale. Life is bad, and that is the only lesson Marlin can learn because it is the lesson he already knows.
Dory his adorably absent minded buddy doesn’t have any preconceived lessons. She “just keeps swimming”. To Marlin she is an imbecile because everywhere they turn there is obvious danger. Danger is all Marlin can see. And he isn’t wrong, but as Dory teaches him, he isn’t entirely right.
If Marlin hadn’t tried to force Dory away from the sharks, well there would have been no bloody nose to insight the hungry beasts. If Marlin hadn’t been so rude to the school of fish, he would have gotten directions earlier and more completely and would have avoided the jelly fish all together. In Marlin’s haste to protect himself from the world he makes it a more dangerous place. That is what living with PTSD is like.
I have always had PTSD. I have always lived in a world that was scary and dangerous and I have never been good at seeing the world as a place of both danger and joy. Someone once said, “The war is over.” And with the intensity of someone who feels threatened, I screamed, “No sir, it is still going on”.
It is true, I am still at war, still in war and still protecting myself from the enemy. The enemy is the world and as Marlin learns not only can you not protect yourself or your beloved child from the world, you shouldn’t because as Dory says, “ Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo”.
Not much fun… yeah, fun, thriving versus surviving. Learning HOW to do that, instead of just over thinking every moment until you can plan for all foreseeable outcomes except the one where you may enjoy yourself.
So what is living with PTSD like? It is like Finding Nemo. And I hope everyone out there has a little blue buddy who can help them out, even if some days it is all you can do to just keep swimming.
Time for a Top Ten list from your local funeral professionals! Now I am by no means a “Miss Manners” of funeral etiquette, but some things should be non-negotiable when attending a funeral service:
One. Silence your phone. Seriously that means you.
Two. Silence your insatiable curiosity. If the cause of death is common knowledge, then you will already know about it. Please don’t badger the family for “gory details” at the funeral. Likewise, don’t expect the funeral home staff to let you in on the family dirt. We will not be the source for #NOTTHEBABYDADDY on your Twitter feed.
Three. If you call the funeral home and explain that you were unable to attend the visitation, the service and the committal, but would still like to know where the luncheon is being held? “I’m sorry sir; I don’t know where the family has made those accommodations but thank you for your call.”
Four. Don’t bring a date. By all means, if your longtime partner knew and loved your Aunt Matilda they should be included, but if you met someone yesterday at Subway and they seem real nice, a family funeral is not a great second date.
Five. Don’t NOT have a funeral. This sounds like funeral home marketing gobbledygook but it’s not. I’ve worked with a number of families who have abided by the “He never wanted a funeral” reasoning. It is very difficult for these families to move to the next level of their grief without the closure of a memorial service of some sort. I would never suggest that someone go expressly against the wishes of their loved one, but a brief moment of remembrance and sharing privately with your pastor or even at a family meal can go a long way toward starting the healing process.
Six. Did I mention silence your phone? Think about other sounds your phone makes also. If you plan to take a photo of Grandma’s headstone during the committal service, maybe disable the cute voice on your cell phone that squeaks “Say CHEESE!” as a photo is snapped.
Seven. Don’t overdress. I know it is black, but the dress you wore to your BFF’s bachelorette party, the one that all your friends agreed that “Oh My Gawd!” made you look “So Freakin’ Hawt!!!” may not be the right dress for the Catholic Mass part of Uncle Dick’s funeral. Bring a sweater. And some pants.
Eight. Don’t underdress. Now I don’t think I’m going very far out onto the limb when I say that most families don’t give a hoot about what you wear when. They are just touched that you took the time to come. That being said, if you are attending the funeral for a person who is part of a large inter-racial and diverse family, it might be a good day NOT to wear the T-shirt that says “I Had a Swig at Nig’s!”
Nine. Don’t think you will come up with the perfect thing to say. One of the epiphanies I had when I first started officiating at funeral and memorial services in 2001, was that there was NOTHING I could say that would make this family not be sad. I realized all I could do was to be present and non-anxious with people who were grieving. Sometimes the best that you can do for someone who has endured a loss, is to look them in the eye and let them see that you care.
- Ten. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! Recently, we had a committal service at the Southeastern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Union Grove. While I was speaking, a lovely older woman’s phone rang. I continued speaking while all in attendance gave her the “death stares of contempt” while she loudly explained to her friend that she couldn’t talk because she was at a funeral. A few minutes later, while the Marines were folding the flag in silent respect for their fallen brother, her cell phone rang again, and again she chattered loudly. There was nothing that could be done to rescue this moment for the family that day, but I make a vow personally that if your cell phone rings at a funeral, I will kick your butt from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. Semper Fi.
Today’s guest post is written by Patti Fitchett. This from Patti: I am an apprentice funeral director who started performing funeral ceremonies in 2001 when I was hired to sell pre-need burial insurance. That was a bust,( no sales chops!) but the funeral business grew on me. My first degree is in Theatre Arts and I have two adult sons.
by Shane R. Toogood
Above my television, ten years after Mrs. Connelly had given it to me, is a poster of Edgar Allan Poe: “In the Mind of Edgar Allan Poe.” It’s a portrait of the Master of the Macabre with images of his greatest pieces bursting from his cerebellum and into the world: the nevermore raven, the black cat Pluto with his one eye, the gold bug crawling over his monstrous forehead…
She and her husband, Chris, had visited the Poe Museum in Philly and, as a graduation gift, she gave me the poster. (“I hope you didn’t already have one–I couldn’t remember if you said you had been to the Poe House or not.”) That following fall Sandy would be starting her new teaching job at Delaware County Community College, the same school I was heading. Knowing I’d have a friend in the halls made going to college easier.
The usher pointed to a parking spot as I rolled up to the funeral home in my friend’s car. He let me borrow it so I could properly pay respects to the family. In person. It was important for me to tell them that their loved one was mine, too, but I didn’t want to intrude, only having met Chris once in high school. Didn’t he have a beard and glasses? Wore flannel? I thought about her two sons. They wouldn’t be there, would they? I imagined telling them, four and six, who their mommy was to me.
Should I just keep driving?
When you work in the funeral industry, even if it is just answering their phone calls, you get a bit desensitized. Just to cope. And before March of this year, I hadn’t cried in almost ten years. Not even at my grandmother’s funeral four years ago. For awhile I thought I had a steel heart or was border-line sociopathic.
Stepping into the parlor, alone, I blended with the others, now knowing what it was like to be the person on the other end of the phone. A female usher handed me the program: smiling Sandy on the front, opening a present at a school desk, presumably Upper Darby High School.
I smiled back.
Whether you believe in a diety or fate or some collective, cosmic consciousness, I was meant to see Sandy a few months ago at Bertucci’s. I was there with friends, waiting to be seated. First I saw Gina with her infant son, leaving. She and I became friends before I even took her creative writing classes at the community college. We caught up before she pointed beyond the wall: “Sandy and Bonnie are here.” Bonnie mentored me on the school paper at DCCC. “They’re in the back.” Bonnie, Gina and I kept in touch via Facebook, but Sandy, I hadn’t seen her in a while.
Later, as my friends and I ate, I noticed Bonnie, their colleague Denise, and, finally, Sandy walking out of the dining room. She placed her hands in prayer position over her mouth and then put out her arms. I couldn’t get to her fast enough. She seemed to be fighting back tears, friends-never-forgotten.
Her hair was cut short, not her usual shoulder-length bob, and her once Snow White skin was now rouged–but that could’ve been the lighting. The soft down of her new cut brushed across my cheek. It’s great to see you, I told her. I’ve been meaning to write. I finally graduated college!
“Ooo, that’s good,” she cooed, still smiling. I debriefed her on the past few years and told her I’d write. She told me, “I’d like that.” We said goodbye.
“She has been quite ill in the last year and a half and has taken a turn for the worse in the last couple of weeks…” Gina’s Facebook message wasn’t a shock so much as it was thirty-nine lashes across the face. When I saw Sandy at Bertucci’s I thought she looked different, but she was fine. I was being silly to think she was sick. She would have told me, right? “Though she is not able to read emails, her family can read letters to her.” Do it now, I told myself. Easter Sunday, 2013, I lost another friend and mentor, the New Hampshire Poet Laureate Walter Butts. The letter I started for him still stays folded in my Trapper Keeper, unfinished. It was too late. By the time I started the letter, only a few days after learning he was ill, he was gone.
The guest book. A phrase I hear so often at work–is the guest book provided by the funeral home or is it included in the price? I’m not sure, but I can have the director call you right back–would now bear more meaning. My heart was beating so hard my body shook as I attempted to sign my name in a straight line in the guest book. For Sandy, once more…
Once, in the middle of a class assignment my freshman year in high school, Sandy walked over to me with a pen in one hand and the school’s purple lit mag in the other, beaming. My short story had just been published.
Kneeling down, she placed the open magazine next to my composition book and asked for my autograph. Some of my peers looked up from their papers, making me a bit self-conscious at first, but when she told me she couldn’t wait to tell people she knew me once (something any writer wants to hear), I proudly scrawled my name. I knew it then, and I know it now, had I never had the privilege of knowing Sandy, becoming friends with her, I might not have known what to do with my life. She was more than a dear friend and mentor: Sandy is an integral part of who I am; she prodded the “me” out of myself. For that, I will be forever grateful.
We essentially followed each other to DCCC where, between classes, she and I would talk in her office. Told me to call her Sandy because she hadn’t been my teacher in quite some time. When I graduated from DCCC, a few of her colleagues would joke with her: “You following Shane to Goddard, too?” She’d laugh. Say she was looking for a position. And of course I wouldn’t have minded; at least I’d always have an office to visit.
Time was eternal idling in that line. Watching the slideshow on the flatscreen, I immediately suppressed even the slightest inkling of a lip-quiver. Not here, Shane. Not in public. The Pina Colada Song and Brown Eyed Girl played…played…played…until I was forced to burrow my own earworm with Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeores’ “Two.”
I practiced what I’d say in case I got choked up when introducing myself to the family. At work we’re prompted to offer condolences, but it never gets any easier. Chris, my name is Shane Toogood. Sandy taught me in high school. She really encouraged my writing, and through that we became friends. I could see him standing next to the casket: no beard and light hair. Where did I conjure up this remembrance of a hipster with dark-rimmed glasses and a bushy beard?
The funeral home was very comforting with framed pictures of Sandy and her family on the tables making it feel more like we were in her own home. Typically I don’t view bodies. Not up close. And I realize now that it’s not being around the dead that made me feel so uncomfortable for so long, it was not knowing what to tell the family. My name’s Shane and I was a friend of Sandy. I’m so sorry for your loss. I kept a watchful eye, hoping to see at least one familiar face. Bonnie and Gina said they’d be there. A few of Sandy’s colleagues trickled in, but they were too far or too distraught to notice me. (Remember me?) Before I left the house I thought about texting Gina that I was on my way, hoping it would entice her to wait for me. We could go in together, and then maybe she could explain to the family who this tall stranger is.
I was around the corner now, the casket twenty feet from me. A stuffed Super Grover was propped at the bottom, waiting to take flight over the the purple casket spray draped over the top.
Aside from some chattering and the skipping songs, the funeral home was quiet, somber. Then I heard a burst of crying up front. I looked towards the family. First I saw Bonnie talking to Chris’ parents. Then Denise. And there was Gina, wearing sunglasses, rocking with Sandy’s mother. Sandy lay in the casket.
Bonnie made her way over, her arms waiting to catch me. Sandy had urged me to introduce myself to Bonnie, knowing she could help me with my writing. Plus, “Bonnie has had a few publications,” she said. My chest sputtered like a car engine trying to turn over. I turned away, suddenly not sure if I wanted her to see me or maybe I knew that if I saw her, this pressure building inside of me would burst and I’d leak all over.
Bonnie wrote: “Shane, I have very sad news.” This was last Thursday. “Sandy Connelly passed away last night…This is truly heartbreaking.” Heartbreaking. I never knew the impact, the density of the word, until it crushed me breathless. A word tossed so loosely, like dirt off a shovel, now gained meaning.
We didn’t say anything, just cried in each other’s arms.
Bonnie expressed her love for my online condolences. She asked Denise, putting an arm around her shoulder, if she had read it. She hadn’t, so Bonnie recapped the story of the autograph. We all fought back tears, using bunched up tissues to stop the flow.
I folded over to hug Gina and we whispered how deeply sad we both were. Finally, I could let go, grieve with the ones who knew my pain. The ones who cried on their beds, too, hoping their sobs would rock them to sleep. The ones who turned up the music to drown out their crying, but just the same hated that the songs were playing.
My dry mouth, I could tell, smelled like decay. I needed a mint. There were bowls of them everywhere, wrapped in mute silver plastic. A mint could help coax out some H2O. Another one of my past professor’s joined the huddle. “Oh, Shane.” She looked at me over her glasses, telling me how much Sandy loved me. They all told me.
The mint wrapper crackled in my fumbling hands. I hoped it was spearmint. But instead of a Golden Ticket I found a lone chocolate. Better than nothing. I bit down. A dry dinner mint crumbled like ash beneath the chocolate coating.
I needed a mint!
Writing Advice. “Of all the things you’ve written…I think that horror is the best,” Sandy once wrote to me. This was her polite way of telling me that the modern tale of unrequited love I wrote for a girl I was courting in high school was complete shit. I heeded her advice.
My heart was pounding. I stood beside the open casket, admiring how beautiful Sandy looked, holding her purple rosary beads. Just the way I remember her. The first time without a visible smile. Two people away. But her presence was still warm.
Chris, I’m so sorry for your loss. My name is Shane. Sandy and I were friends from Delaware County Community College. Chris’ eyes met mine. Or so I thought they did. I gave him a sad smile, to both acknowledge I saw him and that I was sorry for his loss. Next. My body stopped producing saliva after I drained every ounce of water from my body onto Bonnie’s shoulder.
Chris, my name is Shane. Toogood? Sandy taught me at Upper Darby and we remained friends since…I opened my mouth to speak.
Chris put out his hand. “Shane, right?” I shook my head, walked a few inches. He was taller than me which, in that moment, seemed so appropriate. “Sandy told us so much about you.” He told me about how much she and the family loved the letter I sent a few months ago. How much Sandy loved it. I was on auto-pilot, trying to think of things to say. To respond. Bonnie and Gina’s voices lingered in the back of my head. Are you by yourself? Are you going to be okay? I hope so, I kept saying. “And you didn’t know she was sick?”
“I did. Gina reached out to me,” I told him, immediately wanting to offer a retraction. Should I have lied? Told them I didn’t know? If not to protect the family’s privacy, but to protect Gina’s confidence? “But I didn’t know it was this bad.” Chris said Sandy didn’t think I knew, and I was glad. After Walter’s death, I wanted to reassure her how much she means to me anyway; it’s better that she rest in peace thinking I was ignorant. Sandy’s mom nearly jumped up and dangled from my neck when Chris introduced us. She told me she loved the letter. Sandy loved it. “We all love that letter! We’re going to put it up in a frame.”
Her father reminded me that we had met when the U.S. Poet Laureate visited the college. “Kay Ryan! That’s right!” He was glad I came. They made me feel at ease and I could sense Sandy’s love through them. And when I tried to offer my condolences, each family member would instead tell me how I affected Sandy. “Just know that you meant a lot to Sandy,” her sister said. I do, I said, feeling that I know Sandy so much better.
Above my television, ten years after Sandy had given it to me, is a poster of Edgar Allan Poe: “In the Mind of Edgar Allan Poe.” It’s a portrait of the Master of the Macabre with images of his greatest pieces bursting from his cerebellum and into the world: the nevermore raven, the black cat Pluto with his one eye, the gold bug crawling over his monstrous forehead…and stuck between the frame is a funeral program boasting the picture of a friend opening a present, melting ice cream cake beside her, and an effervescent smile that will never fade.
Shane earned his BFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. His fiction and articles have been published in various newspapers, blogs, and lit mags including the Philadelphia Inquirer and, most recently, the inaugural issue of the Philly Anthology, Vol. 1.