Tuesday, February 5, 2019
A hometown funeral & "The Art of Living Suddenly"
I’ve been at this fatherhood thing long enough I figure I can BS my way clear across any vast canyon of factual oblivion.
Merely appearing wise conceals authentic foolishness — and that utterly pointless 6-word statement practically proves the point of the whole daddy baffle.
But my high school senior stumped me the other day when she asked me to help her with something that had been troubling her sweet soul: What does she say to her friend whose Mom just died?
Gee, I’m sorry? Tough break? Hang in there?
Which godforsaken cliche might Band-Aid a tender heart that is exploding into a million tiny pieces?
I didn’t know the woman.
Everyone else in town did.
Val and Josie waited in line 2 hours at the funeral home visitation service on an afternoon that was as sunny and cheerful as the 52-year-old mother of two they were all there to mourn.
That right there fulfills one of my bedrock lessons of a life well-lived. It’s no. 42 in “Use All The Crayons!” and one I always share with audiences who are there to — and it sounds crazy to me, too — hear my thoughts on colorful living:
“Try and do something each and every day that’ll ensure parking at your funeral will be a real bitch.”
It’s great advice, really. Want people to show up at your funeral and comfort your loved ones with honest stories of how much you mattered?
Make your own list, but include things like …
Make eye contact. Be optimistic. Be generous. Laugh easily. Avoid petty political fights on Facebook. Treat the guy who works on your car the same as you treat the guy who works on your heart.
And, c’mon, treat everyone nice.
I’ll bet doing all that was second nature to Mrs. S.
This all happens at a time when I’m immersing myself in thoughts of sudden death, legacy, and the elusive meaning of it all. I’ve spent the last few months constructing a book proposal I’m calling “The Art of Living Suddenly: How to Deal with a Parkinson’s Diagnosis (and other things that suck).”
Losing your ever-loving mother in high school certainly qualifies as something that sucks.
It is my contention that anytime we hear of anyone dying suddenly, we need to commit to living suddenly.
What’s living suddenly? Well, it may be self-defeating for me to say so, but if you’ve read this blog this far you’re probably not doing it.
I’m kidding! Your reading and encouragement gives real meaning to my life — no real income, but real meaning.
I’m still not sure what it means to live suddenly but for me it involves laughter, conversation, family, friends and other priorities that keep professional stability an unattainable goal.
But living suddenly is something you need to define for yourself and I suggest you do so right away.
Because you just never know when your time is up.
I was talking about all this to a bartender friend of mine — and that is redundant; every bartender is a friend of mine. His father was killed when he was in high school. He was riding his motorcycle when a senior citizen without a license ran a red light and wiped him out.
He was 55. My age.
“I was just devastated,” he said. “He was the greatest Dad in the world. I miss him every single day. It was just so senseless.”
He meant the death was senseless, but the same could be said for life. It rarely makes any sense to me.
I audaciously believed by the time I got this far I’d have conceived something truthful I could tell my daughter to share with her friend, something that would bestow profound clarity to her grief.
I was mistaken.
Instead, all I have are questions: Is life ever fair? How do we help the hurting to heal? What’s the point of so much pain?
And if we’re not living suddenly, are we really even living at all?