You perfectly reflected my thoughts and feelings on death and society's selfish expectations of those who've suffered the loss. I just want to say that you are one of the very few clear-thinking and honest people I have ever read. You are a wonderful writer.
I am sorry for the insensitivity of those people you encountered during that time. They are not really fully conscious.
Anyway, on death and dying
When my father died in 2001, I was not moved. My memory of that time is still clear. I had to buy a suit and pants and funeral shoes. I hated it. I didn't have a suit because I hadn't needed one up to that point in life because I didn't attend weddings or funerals. I didn't attend weddings and funerals because I was pretty much estranged from my family for reasons that I will not go into here.
And then my older sister died. So once again I donned my funeral gear and headed out. I got there just under the wire . . . as planned. And when the service was over, I left the building and headed for the parking lot and left immediately . . . as planned.
And then my younger brother died. So once again, I donned my funeral gear and headed out. I got there just under the wire . . . as planned. And I left immediately . . . as planned.
And then my mother died just last month, and I was not moved, but once again with the funeral gear. But this time I got there early to support my siblings because for the very first time, I saw them through different eyes and sensed their loss and feelings of grief and I guess some kind of loneliness. I could hear it over the phone in my sister's voice. I arrived at the funeral parlor at ten-thirty, and the service was at one-thirty. So for three hours, I watched as neighbors and relatives rolled in. Most of them I had not seen in thirty years, and some--the children of my nieces and nephews--I didn't even recognize; didn't know their names. And I had to think of things to say to all of them. It put me in mind of a watering hole in Africa where all of the different kinds of animals are forced to be in close proximity to each other, like it or not. People were hugging me and telling me that they were sorry for my loss. I thanked them because there seemed to be no other answer than that; not even silence would suffice.
While sitting off to the side with my older sisters, one of them was telling me that she had instructed her daughter to not allow a memorial service to take place for her. She said she had already made arrangements for cremation, and that there will be no service. I told her that if it were up to me, I would have someone take my body ten miles out to sea in a motor boat and dump me over the side. And as we were sitting there talking, the funeral director/preacher was standing within earshot. When the service began, he started off by giving a discourse on how important funerals are because they are not for the deceased, but for the one's left behind. His gaze went from my sister to me as he was saying it. I didn't like that. If he had looked at me again, I had planned to shake my head and wink at him, but he didn't look at me again. If it were a debate forum, I would have told him that I'd prefer to hear his opinion from someone else--someone without a conflict of interest concerning the issue. But it wasn't a debate forum. Anyway, he went ahead and used my mother's death as a platform to promote his fearful take on the terrible consequences of not believing as he does.
Among my mother's things was one of those white plastic egg-shaped things that pantyhose came in back in the 80s. I think they were called Leggs. For Easter about thirty years ago, I thought I would give her something special. So I wrote a poem that I thought would make her feel good about herself, and I folded it up and put it in that plastic egg. I thought it would help offset the bad times that resulted from living with an unbalanced husband who drank to find his balance, which caused both him and her to become even more unbalanced. She read it and cried and said it was the nicest thing anyone ever gave her. I believed her.
While going through my mother's things after she died, my sister found the plastic egg and the poem inside. During our phone conversation, she asked if it would be alright if they put it on the memorial funeral cards that they gave to everyone. I said sure. The preacher read it during the service. As he was reading it, I couldn't help but notice that it had been altered. Some words were missing, and some phrases had been changed. It ruined the cadence and flow of syllables. Someone in the chain of custody of my poem decided to edit it to their satisfaction. I went home and decided that, in fifty years, who's gonna give a damn. But still . . .
Before all of that, back in 1991, my dog died. Her name was Sadie. One Saturday morning as I was pulling out of the driveway to go to the mall, I saw her body on the road. She had slipped out of her collar and had been hit by a car. Every day for two years, she and I would walk to the State land and walk around the woods in the summer. I have no children, but she was my child. For years I had read so many books on philosophy, spirituality, New Age stuff, and death. I had sat in the audience listening to alleged wise men. And I came to understand that everything physical dies, but that there is no real death in the sense that the essence of the person is destroyed; it's just a transformation. I never looked at it as if someone was gone. I looked at it as if we were still here. So I took her to the pond and buried her among the pines on my property. I took another shower and then headed out to the mall.
I listened to the radio as I drove the thirty miles. I arrived at the mall and did my usual routine. Then I thought I needed to be getting back home because it was time for Sadie and I to take our walk. That's when I lost it. I tried to keep it together by blanking out my mind as I headed for an exit, but I wasn't in control anymore. People were looking at me as I walked past them. I felt weak. I finally made it to the exit and headed for my car. I started it up and drove to a far corner of the parking lot and shut it off and let it all out. Having forgotten what it's like to cry, I just let out all of my air in a silent wail, and I didn't let any air in for a long time. I pictured walking into the house and how it was going to feel like death in my now lonely lifeless home. I eventually got home and went to my bed and assumed the fetal position, my head filled with the sight of me digging a hole and putting her into it like so much insignificant mass.
I could tell you about her, but so much would be lost in translation from my heart to your ear. In the woods I would find my special log and sit in such a way that I could balance and drift off into a sleep state. She would run around the woods for about fifteen minutes and then come back and wake me up. Then she'd run around the trees, zig zagging so fast, and it would always make me laugh. And she'd watch my eyes as she did so. Then she'd come for her hug. Dogs smile. She'd have a look on her face that said, "We're having a lot of fun, aren't we!" Sadie the snow white Husky.
That was the standard against which I have measured the meaning of the death of others. Reasonable or not, that's what's true.