Two people passed recently; one very dear to me, and one I’d met only twice. But he was the son of a very dear friend/soul mate of mine.
The former was my first cousin, and he had been rather ill for a few years. He loved music, pageantry, theatre, art, and was very creative himself. He would come visit us every summer from Toronto while we were growing up, because he loved us, his extended family, and he loved Vermont. I looked forward to his visits. He was a great person, and I was so glad he was a cousin.
In adulthood, of course, we don’t always stay quite as connected, do we? Life is so busy that sometimes years go by without contact with those so-familiar faces from childhood.
We all kind of reconnected through FaceBook, as that platform took hold. It was wonderful seeing him there. Seeing the photos he posted this year from the hospital worried me, though. At age 69, after health complications, he Graduated, leaving his physical shell behind to rejoin the realm of Spirit where I know he was greeted by his father, and my mother, his favorite auntie, among others.
My sisters and I attended the service. Here’s where my cousin got the last laugh. Holding a Masters of Divinity, he derived deep joy and pleasure from his faith, and the church where he was a musical director and organist. He left 13 pages of notes describing his memorial service as he envisioned it, and that is what came to pass. A beautiful Requiem Mass of two and a half hours (or was it three?) of carefully considered music, readings, and remembrances. I could feel him there in the church with us, so filled with joy and love, while delightedly holding us captive so we would experience something that gave him so much.
Most of his cousins and siblings just aren’t that into religion, which is why I think he happily took advantage of this, his only opportunity to share with all of us, in full regalia, that which was so much a part of him. I was happy for it.
A couple of days after returning home from the funeral in Canada, I talked to a dear octogenarian friend in Arkansas, whom I’ve known for years through our common love of minerals, crystals and stones. I told him about attending the funeral in Canada. He responded, “Well, I wasn’t going to say anything, but since you brought up your funeral, I will tell you… My son died.”
I was dumbstruck. At my questions, he told me that his son had dropped dead at work at age 49—a heart issue. “I had to go identify the body,” he said quietly. “That was the hardest and most painful thing I have ever had to do.”
He explained, “He didn’t want a fuss. We didn’t have a service; no memorial or burial, nothing. He was cremated, and I did spread his ashes in Lake Ouachita. We used to spend a lot of time on that lake, he loved boating and water skiing out there with his brother. I think he would have liked that.”
I expressed my shock and my condolences, and he said, “I haven’t told anybody, not family, not friends, no one.” I know my friend’s sister, who lives nearby, and with whom he has Sunday breakfast every week when he’s home. “Did you tell Lois?”
“No, I haven’t,” he said. “No reason to, it’s a private matter.” Even knowing him as I do, that surprised me.
We finished our conversation after a few more minutes, but I couldn’t help ruminating on it over the next couple of days. It was a remarkable story to witness, especially in juxtaposition to my cousin’s passing. The latter, an extravagantly lovely celebration of a life lived to the hilt; the former, a life also well and richly lived, yet unremarked and unseen in its end; just a closing door.
As I near the start of the last third of my current earthly existence, I find myself pondering these things on occasion. I have attended five funerals in the last year of loved ones, some younger than myself. Personally, I have the advantage of knowing they have only dropped their physical shell; I am often able to see them and “talk” to them, after a fashion, in their new existence. But that does not minimize the shock of losing someone we love, here on the earth plane.
When it’s my turn, how do I want to go out? With ceremony, or without a ripple? Or somewhere in between… Which leads to my next train of thought—what kind of life have I lived, what have I left behind me? How has my presence, my life, impacted this time/space continuum on 21st century Earth?
I’m thinking I can do better. I can be more kind, more loving, more open and more honest. I can live deeper, broader, richer and more meaningfully. I can make every day count, just a little bit more, and not take anything for granted. I can be grateful, and live in joy, and express both more often.
And so I shall.