Overheard at My Own Funeral

I’m not sure why my mind puts my mom there unless it somehow thinks life will cut my life shorter than hers, or I’m afraid of her and death in the same sentence at all. Regardless, for the sake of this morbid question and for plain good storytelling let’s assume she is there. Assuming my body arrived safely in Oklahoma (pun intended) and if they do carry out my final wishes for cremation, I would probably laugh (can a fly laugh?) at the sight of these people – family, friends from all walks of life, business associates, and people that hate me there just to make sure I actually did die – sitting there in emotional trance staring at this silly little urn. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but my mother is so I will stress that my little beady fly eyes better not see a single pew. The officiant (who better not be a pastor of any sort) reads off a Buddhist passage from Thich Nhat Hanh on death and once he finishes the music starts. I spend a lot of time floating around in my mind and visiting people that have passed through, experiences that affixed itself to my mental postcards, and seeing what I may have missed the first time around, so since my journey is over I hope that someone else begins to float.

Sitting there as my soundtrack begins with Oasis’ “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, Carolyn comments on the selection and then mentions how she’ll miss Rhoda (me) so I land on her shoulder and buzz “I’m the Mary.”

A few of the Antlers guys including my ex-step father David, true to discriminatory form, mention what a loss it was (of course they aren’t referring to my actual death but my sexuality).

After the first song, the Buddhist-slanting officiant opens the floor for sharing. Stormi steps up first and tells stories that make people laugh because that is who I used to be. She talks about us being so broke when we lived together that we ate bologna sandwiches every day. How we drove the 3-hour stretch from Stillwater to home penniless and with the gas light flashing for 80% of it (you would be surprised at how many times it will come on before your car sputters at all), and when we were forced to get gas we filled it up and sped out of the gas station without paying. See, in New Jersey that is impossible because it’s never self-serve. She’ll then mention how it unleashed a crookedness in us we never knew we had and lead us into Pizza Hut and we fed and ran, fast, hopped in our car with the stolen gas and went home.

My friend Lance would read a poem because he told me there was too much poetry in my soul to get my MBA. I love poetry, and I hope there are several more that read some prose at my permanent going away party.

More music, Khalil Gibran reading, and at the end a reference to my favorite author – Milan Kundera – when the officiant says “Please join me on Jeffrey’s mountain where Alisa will be thrown to the winds – the last symbol of eternal lightness.”

It’s there that all this comes out: Alisa was…fearless, creative, quirky, hard to comfort, funny, thought she was witty but she wasn’t, forgiving and perhaps too forgiving, strong, a wordsmith, a good communicator of the abstract, batshit crazy, not shy, loyal, clumsy, the most outgoing introvert, what you see is what you get, moody, good at keeping secrets but never having any, silly, fascinating to rapidly boring, and then someone will say what a great playlist.

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Morbid Compassion.

A designer at work passed away this morning.  Lung Cancer.  I never spoke to the lady, much, but there was something about her that told me had I talked to her it would have been welcomed.  I never did. 

I know what you’re thinking, another post about death.  It occurred to me, today, that perhaps it’s not a mild obsession with death that affects me but the experience in which it changed me.  After my brother died, I gained this spiritual connection to humanity that I never had before; compassion. 

Today when I heard about my co-worker and the gathering we were having to ‘share stories,’ I wanted to attend.  Not because I knew her well enough to have a story, per se, but because within me was this compassion for those that knew her well and loved her.  I want be there simply to pay my respects to the lady that I never spoke to and to those that thought very fondly of her.

It took three valium for me to attend my brother’s funeral. I sat there, marinating in the calm before the storm, and turned my head around to search the room.  I like to stare.  I stare and most people don’t even know, but when your loved one is the focus of the gathering it is different.  You’re the one being stared out.  I stare at people because I find them beautiful.  Sometimes not physically, but somthing about them fills in the holes in life for me; the description of my stories.  The woman I stared at for nearly an hour in the coffee shop that tried her damndest to sit with herself but was interrupted by the devices of technology.  The man that had no chivalry that I saw during my early morning train and then again in the evening – where did this man come from that has total disregard for politeness to women?  Naturally, I develop his character by assuming his mother left him and his father at a young age.  Sometimes I feel I am placed there to trigger this by tapping on his shoulder and asking how come he felt such little compassion for the old lady trying to get on the train that he would cut her off, but I never involve myself that directly into his story.  No, I just watch.  But, my brother’s funeral was different; I was the one being watched.  I turned around in my seat to stare like I was accustomed to, but I saw eyes looking at me, not judging but welcoming.  Eyes that said “I’m here when you need me.” 

My whole life I have struggled with being judgmental.  I think about my pain and the funeral and all the support I could see around me, and I wonder if this feeling I learned – compassion – could be used in more than death.  That way, if we regard each other every single day with compassion, we would initiate hello’s before it’s too late and we would show up just out of regard.  Now, I didn’t know everyone at my brother’s funeral but I did know they had a story to share and it involved my brother – regardless or not of if they actually shared it with me.

Maybe I won’t have a detailed story tomorrow at the gathering to trade stories about our coworker, but I can certainly relate to changes that death brings in people and a hope that it actually does change someone.  I find this change the most endearing change of life, but I still hope it’s not just found in death.  This I try to achieve, so I’ll go be just another eye in which someone lost was seen.

Rest in Peace Periel Tunaligil from mtv.com design.  I was the one that never said hello while you were here, but Godspeed.

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