Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

Four small bags of ashes contained in two canisters, the remains of my father. Notice I did not write, total remains. The reason being, my Dad touched so many lives that every remembrance in the minds of those he impacted will keep him alive for a good long measure. I'm sure his name will be mentioned often and heads will bow come this fall, this football season (my dad's other three seasons being "round ball" "round ball" and "round ball" or basketball, baseball, golf). Moments of silence may ensue. The measure of a man is how well he is remembered. And he will most definitely be remembered well.

But, the stark reality of small bags of dust being thrust (per his request) about the 50 yard line, where he "lived" the life he loved, was at once surreal/lucid. Such a man reduced to this? But even as that thought occurred so did the inner-vision arise before my mind-eye almost able to see my father on the sidelines. For there was no place he'd rather be than in the thick of battle, employing all his wits and knowledge of the game he loved, calling offensive plays and defensive schemes (yeah, he did it all in those days) pacing up and down, chewing out the referees (Oh, woe unto the poor shtupp who blew a call) and always, always teaching life lessons to his "men" as the game progressed. And, believe me, having heard more than my fair share of emotional speeches, there was no better half-time motivator than my father. His team would roar out of the locker room nearly busting the doors off their hinges.

The above remarks refer to my lucid thoughts. As for the surreal? That any of the above means anything at all. Such rituals beget nothing, save for peace of mind if one believes hard enough. Of course, to us, to human beings, such loss is traumatic. We go through our grief period before numbing out to a new reality, one with a gaping hole in our heart; never again able to feel full. Or, rather full enough. Psychoanalysts might say of such a relationship that boundaries have been breached, torn asunder even, given such connectedness; maybe even going so far as to suggest such "love" isn't healthy to the individual.

Be that as it may, if you're lucky enough to have had or now be in a relationship with a person you love and respect, one who has experienced life's ups and downs alongside of you for a good number of years and you can still honestly say this person is your best friend, consider yourself blessed and forewarned: Love them now. Love them with all your heart. And, live your life together well. Because at the end of it, even a "long life" ends too soon. When you lose a loved one you lose something that cannot be replaced. Your life becomes changed; more empty. Fantasies of everything working out become less believable. In fact, you will need to work harder than ever to maintain the will to go on as so much of you has been irretrievably lost. Regardless of what "shrinks" might think, losing a father, mother, child, wife, leaves a void that will never heal over; a sinkhole of lost love that sucks the energy from your soul.

HINT: Not a bad rationale for creating G/god(s) to help alleviate the misery, to fill that hole in your heart with versions of an afterlife where there will be jubilant reunions and everything will be wonderful again.

HINT: Knock! Knock! No one home… Not gonna happen!

Or so go the endless existentialist thoughts. This writer is hardly the first to anguish over such considerations and won't be the last. Well, not until the last human breathes his/her last breath on this dying planet. Although, for each of us, the essence of who we are, breathes its final breath upon death. The body follows all too quickly (as this writer can attest to having worked his way through college as a grave digger). What is left behind is sorrow, loss, and that's if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, add in remorse, guilt, shame or the ol' woulda-coulda-shoulda trifecta.

So, if you love your mother and/or father, if they were a big part of your life, if what they have given you extends well beyond the obligatory material support of food on the table and a roof over your head, be thankful and give her or him a call and maybe say "thanks" for all they did and for the values instilled in you that make you who you are. We like to think "things" will stay the way they've "always" been. Not so. The tomorrow of change is right around the next corner. Go ahead, phone home.

But, whatever you do or don't do, remember we come into this world the way we exit: Alone. Regardless of how many people may be bedside for the death watch, once the curtain drops, the individual spirit leaves the body. And whether your custom requires the body to rot in the ground or cremation ashes to be sprinkled about, one fact is for certain: No one leaves here alive. A single lifetime isn't ever enough.

So, live and love well. This too-short life is the only one we have.

As for my father, today, and every day from here on, he is nowhere and everywhere.