So after yesterday’s Debbie Downer post, I thought I’d just say another thing along the same vein. And that is, that while there is a very important role that grief plays in dealing with loss, where the actual MAGIC happens is somewhere else. What that mourning stage does is gets some of the sadness and hurt out – you know, when you cry so hard, and so long that you’re exhausted afterward and fall in to a deep, deep sleep? It’s a powerful purging. That expression of longing and loss and sadness makes way for something that I’m sure the Germans have a long, awesome-sounding word for.
And it’s this kind of happysad memory invocation, also usually spurred on by stories, where we actually can and do “celebrate” the life of someone we’ve lost. Yesterday I had a bee in my bonnet about the whole thing and here’s why: I was at a wake two years ago, and the MC stood up and said “we don’t want to see tears today; we want to remember him fondly and remember all the wonderful and amazing things he did and the great man he was”. And that’s great; that’s important to do. But it stuck in my craw because at that moment, that day, what we actually did need to do was to cry like banshees. And we did.
I remember the first funeral I went to, when I was eight, and the minister was talking about how wonderful it was that my Gramps got to hang out with God, and I thought, “yeah! Actually, that is pretty awesome, because he totally believes that’s going to happen. GOOD FOR YOU, GRAMPS!” And so I did have this moment of joy knowing that Gramps was getting to hang out with God. This was, of course, immediately followed by my own selfish knowledge that that meant that *I* didn’t ever get to see him again, and let me tell you, that knowledge has pretty much shaped my entire life.
But there is good, comfort, and even sometimes joy to be had in peoples’ passing, especially so if their death is an end to their suffering. And if you have faith in an afterlife, there are all kinds of awesome things a soul can go on to do! Honestly, that’s the kind of comfort that some people need. I think that’s wonderful, that you can find comfort there. There are many ways to find comfort whether you’re religious or nonreligious, theist or atheist.
Death is a very inward-looking thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. And honestly, one of the things that gets me the most at death services/celebrations/whatevers is that my heart breaks for the pain that everyone is in. I mean, whether or not I even knew the person. This one time, Drang and I went on a date to a funeral. I know that sounds weird, and trust me, it gets weirder. It was my cousin’s funeral; a young man who’d been murdered at a house party for trying to defend his ex girlfriend from her then-boyfriend. That branch of the family was pretty much destitute, and it was the first time I’d ever seen an actual cardboard box coffin and the little chapel filled with his peers and his parents and brother, none of whom could rub together two nickels to get a dime between them.
I wouldn’t have known my cousin if I’d have passed him in the street; I’d only met him once, and that was in passing and is a whoooole other story. But I watched my great aunt, his mum, come apart. I felt how heavy and melting people’s grief was, and I wanted to make it better, but of course, I couldn’t. Nobody could. Helplessness really blows. I remember walking up the street afterward, surprised at how emotional I’d become over someone I didn’t even know, whose life never touched mine except in the story of his, if not noble, then at least somewhat heroic death.
Kay. You know what? This was supposed to be a more UPBEAT post. I meant to say that there is a place for happiness and laughter at memorial services. There’s a HUGE place for all of that. I think the (rather abstruse) point I’m trying to make here is that we oughtn’t deny the power of grieving together to …well, to help.
So at my funeral I ALSO want you to laugh and fight and throw shit and cause a ruckus. A joyful ruckus (this might be the name of my next poetry book), a tearful ruckus (maybe a combination of those two things). I want you to do whatever you need to do to send me off. Fireworks ought to be involved. And possibly a New Orleans-style brass band. And filthy poetry. PLEASE promise me there will be filthy poetry. [Note: I don’t intend on dying anytime soon. I still have at LEAST 40 more good years in me, so you’re going to have to wait rather a long time for this awesome shindig.]