Death, Beside Me.

1354     I believe everything is wrapped up and converges with one another. For example, I believe all of life is spiritual, that what I put out there is felt and reaches out beyond what I can see. I try to approach daily life with the awe and respect I believe it deserves. I also believe all of life is art. In everything I do, be it the decorations in my home, the way I dress, where I place a piercing on someone or what I cook and how it’s plated, I look at it aesthetically  and do my best to make it pretty and functional. And so, in all of this life I believe , is incorporated death. I have been fascinated with death since I was a young child. It started with my Great Grandfather dying. The church where the funeral was held was small and had basically two rooms, the sanctuary and a room directly connected to it that was for food and visiting. The room with food and visiting was where my Great Grandfather’s casket and body were. Everyone in this room was almost jovial, in contrast to this were the people in the sanctuary who were close to renting their clothes in a good old fashioned biblical way. It was such a stark contrast to me and it made me curious about this death. From that point on I loved anything to do with dead things. Egyptology was a big interest for me, mummies fascinated me and the Egyptians take on the after life was such a mysterious journey I wanted to learn more about. Myself being raised Christian, death was a very prevalent theme, after all the guy being worshipped was killed, nailed to a tree and died. Death surrounded me. I wasn’t fearful of it though, until one evening I watched a documentary on Nostradamus with my parents. I was probably 7 or 8 at the time, and the video largely revolved around his predictions and the fulfillment of them. One of his predictions was about the end of the world, which according to the professors in this documentary would be in 1995. That night, laying in bed, I did the math. I had between 8-9 years of life left. I thought of all the things I wanted to do and wouldn’t be able to accomplish, the people I loved and would never see again. However,  It wasn’t the dying part that was problematic for me, it was the time limit in which I had to accomplish all my goals. Now I’m 34 and there still isn’t enough time. My aspirations are huge, and the list just keeps getting bigger. I want to publish more writing, and get payed for it this time. I want to write a couple of children’s books. I want to hone my craft and provide the most bad ass piercings for the public. I want to go to Egypt, I want to be rich both in spirit and financially. I want to travel, more and more and more. I want to live closer to nature. I want to become more spiritually aware. With the death of my Dad, these wants and the fears of not completing them are starring at me like a rabid wolf, threatening to eat my spirit. I have felt the depression seep in and weigh on me, it’s like being under water, the pressure and the ache in your ears, it pulses and vibrates until finally you come up for air and have moments of clarity. I have found you have to seize these moments, and if it makes sense, to practice them, push against the weight and force your freedom. I know one day these clear blips will be longer and more stable. I am starting to become more accepting of death, though not entirely comfortable. Death is no longer a concept or word, but an understood reality. Death holds my hand , as he has since I was young,  he reminds me to push forward and work harder and to fight against the kind of sorrow and complacency that would trap me. My dad used to come in my Tattoo/Piercing shop on a weekly basis. I am still waiting for him to come in, I will always be waiting for him to come in and sit and talk about everything and nothing at all. His death has effected me and it should. Death should change you, it should cause you to look at everything. His death has made me aware of my own looming death. The legacy he left behind has begged of me  to answer the question of ‘What will I leave behind?’ I know some of the answer and I am developing the rest. I know one thing, I want make a difference in peoples lives, the way my dad did. And if that’s all I can do, then it’s enough. So, though Death is a robber and he stole someone very precious away from me,  he also has gifted much to me. He has caused me to pause and reflect. So to Death, Thank you. I’m still not too crazy about you and though I won’t be inviting you for tea, I am learning so very much from you.

6 months in…..

Ah Death, the unintentional, yet totally intentional, theme of this years blog.

I did not know 6 months ago when I went to sleep that night, that the next day would be my fathers last day on earth. Tomorrow marks 6 months of his death. I use the word ‘death’  because this is what happened. I do not use words such as departure, passing, moving on etc. I don’t use these words or others like them because it makes light of what death is; death is a slap in the face, it is harsh, it is raw, it is death. You can paint it how you want it, but in truth we can not dress it up enough. When I was a kid my Grandma would light this Rose incense in her bathroom anytime she ‘smealt’ it up. She didn’t succeed in neutralizing or even covering up the stench, only in making it smell like rose covered turds. Much like bowel movements, death can’t be covered with niceties, it will always smell of decay.

Part of me understands why people spew forth these hallmark greetings, (He’s looking down on you, He’s out of pain) when you speak of death and spirit there is a pressure to say things like, “He’s in a better place” etc,. I am a very spiritual person, full disclosure here, but just because I believe we go on in one way or another doesn’t mean that this idea comforts or fills the gigantic pothole in my life that my father left when he died. What people fail to realize, is that the loved one was here yesterday and the day after he wasn’t, your mind even 6 months later, is still trying to understand it.

I still find myself planning the future and my subconscious still registers my dad as being a part of that future and then very quickly, before the thought is in it’s complete stage, I recognize that my dad will not be there. I saw a man who looked like my dad today (or rather the man’s beard looked like my dads, really after seeing that it wasn’t my dad, the only resemblance was the facial hair). For a moment I almost said aloud, “There’s my dad”, as if it was any other day before his death. Each time you make this mistake and catch glimpses of your loved ones ghosts everywhere, it serves as a rude reminder that you’ve lost something very dear that you have no hope in getting back. On top of dealing with daily touchstones, you now have to deal with ‘ghosts’. Great.

So tomorrow marks 6 months of my dad’s death. I have learned to celebrate him when I feel like crumbling, to hold on to his spirit for strength  and to look at his life like a good book, full of adventure, trials and lessons, beauty and sadness. In the end of all good books there are people to carry on the story to pass on to generations, and in the history to come, perhaps there will people to carry on my dad’s love for others, the forgotten people, the misjudged, the addicts, the tinkers, the clowns and just the plain regular folk.

I took this photo below 5 years ago Mardi Gras day and in all the horrible signs and banners people were protesting with, there was this little girl with this shirt, and the shirt sums up my dad.

Finally someone with something positive to say at Mardi Gras, thank you little lady.

Finally someone with something positive to say at Mardi Gras, thank you little lady.

Tragicomedy: The Laughter of The Dead

Tragicomedy:a play, movie, situation, etc., that is both sad and funny.

In moments of sadness, most people know to play it cool and somber. I have found however that I, along with a large majority of folks, find sadness, impossible situations, depression and even death of loved ones, quite humorous. It’s not that we, the mournfully happy, think it’s funny that say an ‘Aunt Peggy’ died, it’s more or less the situations surrounding her passing. It’s the people, it’s the strange and often hilarious ways we will cope with something as heavy as the subject of death. In short it’s our human qualities that make us laugh aloud at inappropriate times.

When my dad died, my family and I were waiting on the coroner. My folks farm house is sizable but felt rather small with myself and my husband, my brother and his wife, my Aunt and Uncle and last but not least a handful of cops and the emergency response team, all in two rooms of the house. At one point it was impossible to move.
After the shock of death and an hour and a half has passed, the practical sides of things started to surface. For instance, we have a dead body on our hands, yes it’s my father’s but it’s a dead body, there are rules to nature….and the coroner, I think, might be lost.
Things could get messy.
My dad once explained all this to a horrified me, over the phone, when my mom’s dad died. I don’t know if you are aware of what the body does after death, if not I’ll let you look that up yourself, but this was something my dad knew all too well. As a Navy Vet, one of his jobs when he was in Vietnam, was diving down into dark water and bringing up dead soldiers. So when my mom’s dad dies, naturally he was anxious for the coroner to come.
My Grandpa’s death was a long drawn out process. He was sick for months ahead of time and in the last two weeks of life, the family sat vigil with he and my Grandma in their front room. Once he finally passed on, I’m not sure if no one had eaten in days or if the loss just made everyone hungry, but either way it goes at some point someone lifted their head from their tear soaked lap and said , “Hey, anyone want a pizza? I sure am hungry!”. Apparently, everyone loved this idea because the family ordered Pizza. And sat. And ate. In the living room, with Grandpa, dead on a bed. It was at this point, my dad got nervous. I talked to him on the phone around this time and he said, “Maggie, we’re eating pizza here! I don’t want to be insensitive but If they don’t get Grandpa out of here soon, things are going to get messy.” I could tell he wasn’t saying this to be humorous, he was seriously concerned.
So, flash forward 6 years to my dad’s death, that night as I knelt beside the body of my father, this memory of my extended family having pizza around my deceased Grandpa popped into my head, all I could hear in my head was my dad’s voice, “Maggie, if they don’t get me out of here soon, things are going to get messy!” Inside I laughed and I may have let a smile escape my lips. I think I was starting to get panicked a bit myself thinking, “where is that damned coroner???” And then “Do I smell Pizza?”

The things that run through your mind when you are under stress, I think this must be a coping mechanism, a way to keep your body and mind from overload and a total nervous and mental breakdown.

As that night played out, I found myself relating to comedies that focus on death and family relations. I could easily see some of what was transpiring before my eyes, happening in a movie.

Once the coroner did arrive, she began to ask my mom questions, general ones, she was a kind woman and was right for the job. In a time of lost senses and incomparable pain, this lady showed grace and class and was very warm to talk with. As I was thinking this, I realized I was being asked a question by my mother. Would I help her take off daddy’s rings? I sighed a heavy sigh. See, this task was difficult in life, dad never took those rings off for a good reason, he couldn’t. They were permanently apart of him, stuck on his fingers. Now in death I was somehow supposed to be able to take them off? I wasn’t sure of the science behind this, But I grabbed the dish soap anyways and got to pouring.
My dad’s fingers covered in blue gloop, I noticed how immaculate his fingernails were, a habit he had learned from his dad. Not only were they filed nicely but they had shine as well, a shine that is brought on only by buffing. Anyways, after a few minutes each of lubing and tugging at his fingers, the rings were released, and subsequently my dad’s hands washed.
After this, I brewed some tea. My sister-in-law and I sat down and sipped at our mugs…which had a perfumed taste, like Dawn dish soap.

So much for tea….

We have to laugh. It oddly feels right when stressful situations arise. Our mind tries to beat us down and put a guilt trip on us for finding laughter in a horrid situation but the truth is, we’d all die of heart attacks due to stress if we didn’t find humor in some of this shit.
It has been over 4 months since my dad’s death and still there are things I am chuckling about, I laugh at his crazy habit of buying knic-knacks, the way he’d buy something new and walk around like the cat’s meow and take the time to explain why it was the best thing and how he got a real deal on it.
I am still laughing at some of the happenings surrounding the planning of his memorial and celebration. I think I will always.
Oddly, I can’t remember my dad’s laughter too much. Seems silly, it hasn’t been long but it’s one of those things, it’s something unexpected you assumed would just stick with you, but it hasn’t. I can explain what it sounds like but it’s like seeing your reflection in a rain drenched window, the edges and shadows are there but none of the detail. However, through all this tragicomedy, I can hear a silent whisper of a laugh, one my memory strains to recall and can only make out parts of, it’s the laughter of the now dead….. and somehow, it’s enough.