Category Archives: Death

A Day, A Minute

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Near a large metropolitan area in the north, a family sits in stunned hurt and despair as the patriarch surprises them with another fit of rage and accusation. The day, like so many others, now lies in tatters. His addictions seldom yield to a retreat toward family, humility, or humanity. He cannot be reached inside his defensive slide toward loss and oblivion. Though the entire family is in attendance, hurt and pain fill the air, needlessly exacerbating lives populated by trouble. Happiness has fled the building. It’s the price demanded by addiction. These words, the ones you’re reading, are treasonous through the very act of expressing them. Addictions grow in the silences and spaces between the moments of our lives.

In a small town not too far from here, a family gathers to be with their loved one as his body fails him. While the reason for gathering is not joyous, the symbolism of family fills their heavy hearts. A long life can be both celebrated and clung to with fanged fingers. Life is always a treasured embrace, and we rarely wish to exit the dance willingly; the veil of tomorrow beckons us.

I’m connected to both of these happenings. I couldn’t help but observe their overlap, forming a perverse Venn Diagram. They took place at the same hour and minute; neither was aware of the other.

There is no lesson here, no plea to seize the day or bite one’s troubled lips.

I am merely that fish in the bowl, observing, surrounded by an alien wilderness that I’m somehow connected to.
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A Eulogy For December Moments

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I’m holding my breath and waiting for his swan song. Though the stanzas of our lives are numerous, some of us race with abandon toward the long silence. He’s among those. Even if we cover our ears to drown out the notes, the subdued and reduced scales will still flow and ebb all around us, whether injurious or nostalgic.

There will be no melodic crescendo nor applause-laden curtain call, of that I’m sure. His symphony will abruptly cease, and the echoes of his efforts will radiate quickly into oblivion. I can feel the tempo and its accelerando, racing impatiently toward the inevitable.

A life will have ended. Each of us who knew him will have our own arrangement, filled with annotations, corrections, and commentary.

As is often the case, many will have reached conclusions and coda without understanding that his life filled with the burden of secrecy. Lives, like harmonies, often gain depth through filter and perspective.

Our facades conceal our secrets; they also conceal us.

We can only make decisions with the information we have. I tried. I failed. But it’s not my failure to own.

I don’t hold myself to accountability, either, in part because his addiction demanded secrecy, anger, and retribution for those peeking inside the fortress of denial.

It’s difficult to stand near the fire without wincing in pain – even in December moments. We draw close to the light for warmth. As we walk away, the warmed fabric which protects us burns.

Life will go on. We’ll claim to have learned our lessons from his exaggerated example. We’ll reflect, hope, and dedicate ourselves to avoiding the same mistakes.

We’ll make them, however. Our humanity requires an ignorant allegiance to forgetfulness. Collectively, we have only a few vices, ones which we ceaselessly abuse to our own detriment.

We’ll recall his presence. Perhaps, in time, even as it fills us with fondness. His melody will be a problematic reminiscence.

Those who lose their arguments with their lesser selves tend to bequeath a series of discordant and minor shards of broken glass for us to decipher.

Walk among them at your own peril.

To he, to him, to me, to we, to us, to you.

Love, X

In Memoriam Of The Truth

 

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Deanne at her confirmation…

 

 

This post needs a preface. My last wife died suddenly over a decade ago. I was ten years older than she was. She came from a large family, one like so many others; dysfunctional and complicated. Deanne was the youngest of many siblings. Like so many of us, she made some terrible choices when she was younger. Her family mostly failed to adapt to the fact that she grew out of much of her youth. The church and religion were two separate entities in her mind. One, rooted in the practical and loving faith of her paternal grandmother in South Dakota, and the other, insistent on concealment and manipulation. Because of something that happened when she was young, Deanne’s appraisal of the church as a whole was marked by suspicion and lack of trust.

I posted this to Deanne’s ancestry records so that her truth would be preserved – and possibly outlive the revisionists who will read the words and be unable to resist lashing out against the truth I’ve shared. It’s uncomfortable hearing someone revise history or mischaracterize someone’s life. The purpose of my addition to Deanne’s posthumous biography isn’t to harm. The truth never harms unless those who hear it don’t wish to accept it.

 

Deanne Cordell was baptized in the Catholic church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Nov. 28th, 1976, when she was two days old. Much of both sides of her family were Catholic. As she often joked, “I didn’t have a say in whether I was baptized, but I have a say about going to church.” Deanne loved her paternal grandparents, especially her grandmother Jessie Gosmire Cordell. She admired her faith and the way she lived it. Deanne often talked about how much she wished that people could have an open, honest, and compassionate faith like her grandmother. As for most other people, she had an intense impatience with their hypocrisy and lack of compassion toward those in need or those making mistakes. She’d look back at their life and see all the craziness and wonder how they didn’t recognize themselves in the lives of others, even as they criticized them. It caused friction with many people in her life.

 

I have no way of knowing what she was referring to or whether it was about her own life, but she knew a girl who had experienced some kind of abuse at the hands of clergy. She said that the girl had told her mother about it and had been punished repeatedly for lying about the church. It had a substantial impact on her views about the church. I tried to circumspectly discover the identity of the girl in question over the years. “It’s not a part of my life now, so it doesn’t matter,” she’d say. I knew it mattered, though.

 

By the time Deanne was an adult, she had grown to dislike the church intensely. She was unhappy with church politics, its policies, and also the way it concerned itself more with public relations than honesty. As an adult, she only attended church when mass was part of a Catholic wedding or funeral. Otherwise, she preferred to live a secular life. A great deal of her dissatisfaction with the church was the way so many had responded to her choices in life, some of them with great anger and disapproval. She found no holiness in their attitudes.

 

Oddly enough, had she remained in South Dakota or moved back as an adult, to be nearer her grandmother, I know she would have attended church with her. Her grandmother was her connection to faith, while her own mother was the wedge that distanced her from it. Her grandmother never held religion as a weapon and certainly didn’t sharpen it at people’s expense. Deanne admired that relentlessly.

 

Before she died, she talked about how ridiculous some of her family member’s ideas regarding religion were. One in particular was regarding cremation. She was fond of pointing out that those with the strongest views about cremation seldom managed to pay for their choice before departing, leaving other family members to bicker about the issue. When my Uncle Raymond died about a month before Deanne, it allowed us to talk about her own choices. She thought her mom’s antiquated ideas about cremation and Catholicism were ridiculous. She was adamant that she wanted to be cremated and not buried or memorialized in a Catholic church or cemetery. She was equally adamant that her middle name not be used. Given that I had legally changed my name, it was one of her wishes that she eventually change hers, too, and rid herself of the name. We joked a lot about choosing an entirely different name for herself, as I had done. Given enough time, I’m certain that she would have and I think she would have chosen “D” or “DeDe” as her first name. I had made and placed hand-painted “D” letters in a couple of places in the place we lived.

 

In my commentary, I’ve held back from the overt negativity Deanne had toward the church. She struggled to come to terms with her own beliefs, as most of do. She also struggled with her mom’s attitudes about religion, as they seemed to trigger her distaste for religion like nothing else. I’d laugh and talk her down from being angry about it. It’s part of the reason I still sometimes wonder whether Deanne was the girl she knew who had the story to tell about clergy.

 

Deanne has living family who would vainly attempt to revise my recounting of her attitudes. I was closer to Deanne than any other person in her life. No one knew her as an adult as I did. I married her when she was 20 years old. She died at 31. Many thought of her as the “kid” of the large group of siblings and half-siblings. They carried their prejudices about her youth into her adulthood and often discounted her opinions about life, whereas I only began to know her when her adulthood was starting. I had no preconceptions.

 

In the last year of her life, I attended a variety of different churches, trying to find one which might be worthwhile, despite my agnosticism. Deanne wasn’t interested in joining me. She was, however, interested in what I had to say about religion and the things I learned. Much to the surprise of many of her family members, she knew a great deal more than they realized. Many were simply too busy ignorantly trying to correct her instead of listening.

 

I write this in part because a few people have remarked that she was Catholic. She most certainly was not Catholic, despite the revisionist wishful thinking of some of those who knew her. Whether it is fair or note, Deanne would have much preferred a world without the church, or organized religion at all. One thing is certain: she believed that anyone involved in a sex scandal at church should not only be exposed and punished, but anyone protecting those who did so should be doubly punished.

 

I have no agenda to hide the truth or tarnish her image. Truth is its own reward, even as it leaves a bitter taste in some mouths.

 

X Teri

 

 

 

There Are No Small Deaths

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This post is in defense of those who have connections with other people we don’t understand. As I hope we’ve all experienced, it’s possible to meet a person and ‘get’ them, as if we are estranged best friends. Some of these bonds are stronger than those of family. It’s possible to feel closer to one’s fourth cousin than one’s grandmother. Bit players in our lives often morph into the main actors. By living in reverse, we don’t see their importance until they’ve stepped out and away from our lives.

Only the person experiencing the feelings of loss at a person’s passing knows to what depth those feelings reach. Tendrils of connection are often invisible, incomprehensible, and unknowable. It’s important that we abandon the false expectation that we understand the loss someone else is processing.

There are no small deaths.

Even with my best arsenal of words and passion, I sometimes struggle to describe the nuances of another person and their importance accurately. That’s the best-case scenario even when I’m communicating with someone who shares a great deal of humanity. It’s a fool’s errand with those who lack a common understanding.

When a person commits suicide, it’s human to question all your choices, as well as your attention to the person who has left us. Even without the shadow of self-harm, we tend to experience a depth of introspection when we lose someone.

Whether it’s fair or not, suicide strikes us an accusation. We have to give space to those who need more time to find first gear again. Implying that the loss isn’t a reason to grieve is an unacceptable reaction.

Because of the invisibility of many of these connections, one of the most traitorous acts you can do is to doubt or question whether the relationship was real when another person is suffering from the unexpected rupture and loss. “Did you know him or her very well?” or “Were you ‘friend’ friends?” both serve to undermine and accentuate the pain of the other human being you’re inadvertently demeaning.

“Only the spoon knows what is stirring in the pot” is one of my favorite clichés precisely because it reminds me that I’m not privy to all the information contained in a situation or between people. I’ve committed the error of assuming I know. Worse, I’ve judged people based on what I perceive as only imagined depth. Because I’m human and stupid at times, I fear that I’ll do it again.

A typical example of callousness is when someone says, “It was only a dog” in reaction to someone’s disabling sorrow at losing a pet. Such shallow and meaningless comments only serve to highlight the accuser’s fractured self. We should feel compassion for them, as they’ve been deprived of a pleasure in life that they’ll never understand. It was indeed ‘only’ a dog. The greater truth is that a human being had a deep love for that dog. You’re not demeaning the dog; instead, you’re demeaning another human being’s choices and authentic feelings. From the right perspective, such an attitude is monstrous.

Likewise, when people are involved, the callous person can’t know the person they doubt shared a bond with you. The connection isn’t measurable. We can’t see the swell of your heart or the yearning you wish upon the Earth to have this person inhabit your space again. Grief makes even the best of people uncomfortable. As you learn with age, it also unhinges people who have no foundation to come to terms with the helpless sorrow they see from other people.

Perhaps the person who passed once took a moment and literally reached out to let you know that you were seen, measured, and appreciated. Whether you were indeed at your rock bottom, their outstretched hand and openness pulled you out of the abyss. These moments create a bond that’s difficult to inventory – and treasured forever. Because these moments are often private and held close, those left behind are often the only witness to their measure.

As people die, it’s important to remember that grief is terrible, personal, and unknowable. Each time we’re the one experiencing the loss, if we are lucky, we suddenly remember the lesson of connection.

Time, with its caress and embrace, imperceptibly diminishes our pain, even as it prepares us for the next dark surprise.
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*…written for someone struggling with friends who don’t understand the loss…
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The Poppaty Prerogative

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Pictures of people, please and thank you.

“We are who, remembering when.”

Another person recently discovered the agony of finding out that the opportunity to take pictures with their departed friend has expired forever. He has only a few photos of his times with his friend. Because he’s not proud of his appearance, his ability to drop his guard and allow spontaneous capture of his image dwindled to insignificance. Even on the last trip they shared, no pictures document their overlapping joy. His memory still thrives, to be sure, but just as the recollection of a song cannot accurately measure the depth of beauty of hearing the melody, a memory pales alongside the vivid undeniability of a picture to amplify it. It explains why we can so spontaneously burst into tears or feel the literal swell of our heart when we see the presence of people who have mattered to us.

In the specific and linear moments of our lives, we easily overlook the magic and sublime nature of being alive. As time propels us, we look back and can’t help but to focus our eyes on the apparent wonder of what we didn’t appreciate when it was another backdrop in our present moment. It’s our curse. We find it impossible to perceive the zen essence of an otherwise dull moment.

As Andy from “The Office” said, “…I wish there was a way to know you’re in ‘the good old days’ before you’ve actually left them. Someone should write a song about that…”

The moments which tend to echo and call our name tend to be ordinary while we’re living them.

As people begin the ritual of finding new places to experience their lives, so many choose to photograph the static locales and places in their paths. In our data-filled lives, we have so many sources to find beautiful pictures of every single place on the globe. We can virtually drive down the streets of our favorite places without leaving the computer. We can take in the detail of any painting as it hangs on the gallery wall, no matter where that wall might be. There is both truth and beauty in such pictures. To those who say, “Aha! But those aren’t real,” I would point out that memories are only real to those who lived them. Pictures remain a testament for everyone.

We are, however, a world of people. We’ll remember places more for the moods they evoke. People grant us our identity, while places serve as our stage.

We are who, remembering when, imperfectly.

X’s Humor Relativity Perspective

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This post is going to hit you over the head. It’s personal and genuine. Weirdly enough, it’s about humor. If you read it to the end, the turn it takes will probably bother you, much like a Twilight Zone episode using electric shocks as language.

More than ever, I find myself in awe with people who appoint themselves as gatekeepers for humor and appropriateness. Personally, I can’t get my foot out of my mouth long enough to start gatekeeping other people’s humor.

Eventually, everyone’s sense of humor will land them in hot water with friends, in-laws, pastors, politicians, the Girl Scouts, and strangers. You can’t control another person’s reaction. My sense of humor is darker than average. It’s a claim I make from truth rather than an idle part of my story. If someone is not addressing me or a person specifically, I interpret it differently than I do other humor.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a new rule named “Hanlon’s Disposable Razor.” It preaches that we all stop assuming we know the intent of humor, especially if from someone who generally isn’t guilty of malicious behavior – and no actual harm results from it. The term ‘actual harm’ is subject to context, as is every single human experience, so don’t start quibbling over semantics or issues unaddressed by this post.

Since then, my social media filled with examples of people failing to realize that they can’t read the minds or hearts of others. “Well, that’s not funny!” seems to be taken as a blanket justification for anger in response to something that someone finds a bit uncomfortable. Adam Sandler’s last ten movies weren’t funny, either, but plenty of people disagree. “You can’t joke about some things,” is another typical gatekeeping statement. It’s rare that the person making such a statement has a smile on his or her face when they say it. Or matching socks, now that I think about it.

I’m not advocating that we run willy-nilly over people’s feelings under the guise of humor. Quite the opposite. Likewise, 7-8 billion people surround you, all with differing takes on life. It’s impossible to avoid all possible topics of contention. Elevating all humor to the level of spiteful is a fool’s errand. As you know, nincompoops are always employed.

Mother’s Day, April Fools’ Day pranks, Avengers spoilers (as if the movie wasn’t terrible enough), euthanasia, illness, falling and breaking one’s arm: all of these can be funny in the right context. They are not amusing to the people currently embroiled in any pain associated with the topics, however. Humor is universally told from the point of view of an imaginary third person. We don’t laugh or joke with the intent of hurting anyone. Not if we’re reasonable, I mean. If we accidentally say or do something without realizing that it’s causing specific pain, it’s not a reason to lash out in righteous anger. Mistakes are going to happen. Compounding the innocent error with anger serves no one.

On two occasions since I posted my new rule, people attacked me for not showing the required gravitas to an issue or for the sin of laughing at a horrible post even as I cringed that someone had posted it. I did what any reasonable person would do: I printed a picture of that person’s face, laminated it, and taped it to a urinal at the bus station. (That last comment was humorous. FYI.)

Now, I’m going to get personal and provide an example that will erase any doubt that all of us sometimes pull back from humor that we find to be misplaced. The difference is that I avoid objections to ‘third person’ humor, generalized humor, or humor that references shared experiences. I have to be personal because it’s not only the only way I know how to write but because it strikes directly to the point I’m making.

The humor we allow ourselves and in others is a direct measure of our depth and appreciation for our error-prone lives.

It is not the content per se that brings problems; instead, it is the motivation of the person creating the humor. Most people don’t require much study. We’re stupid more than we are malignant.

There’s a popular meme of a white cat near a woman lying dead on the floor. It’s comprised of three panels, each with the cat approaching the deceased woman, meowing for attention at her side, and finally, sitting on her hip. “Your cat’s reaction to finding you dead on the floor,” or something similar usually serves as title or footnote to the pictures.

There’s a problem with the meme if you look at it from the vantage point of unintended humor. What many people don’t know is that cats tend to stay near the body of their deceased owner, exactly as pictured in the meme. Many people have their own stories relating to this tendency.

As thick-skinned as I am, if you don’t know this about me, I was in the exact situation pictured. My wife died late one Sunday night, the night before Labor Day, years ago. She lay in another room for hours before I woke up for work. Our white cat, Quito, stayed with her for most of the night. I found him with her the next morning when I went into the kitchen.

Now, imagine the pain that came from that situation.

It’s such a specific scenario that it seems unlikely that it would ever be the subject of one particular meme.

However, it is.

It’s not a general observation or bit of humor: it describes precisely one of the most significant traumas I’ve experienced in my entire life.

The meme or ones similar to it come up on my social media and the internet with a higher frequency than you’d imagine. It’s not ever going to be likely that anyone posts such content with the intent of trying to barb me.

I could, of course, lash out at people, as if they are responsible for my biography. I could casually mention my past, which would needlessly traumatize the person sharing the meme as a joke.

Alternatively, I could get a sharp jab and then move along.

In general, take the short jab and then move along. Not always, of course, because sometimes people do misbehave and troll their fellow human beings with ill intent.

But not most of the time. Move along.

If I can overlook a cat meme accidentally mocking this substantial trauma in my life, you can overlook jokes about pregnancy on April Fools’ Day, funny anecdotes about cancer, or insensitive humor scattered throughout your social media.

It is not an invalidation of your perspective or feelings for others to joke at the heart or fringes of subjects which overlap with your life’s discomforts, losses, or challenges unless it’s done with malice aforethought or callousness. I hope you don’t have many people in your life that would subject you to such behavior.

I’d rather live in a world in which I sometimes cringe at humor than to reside in one devoid of the richness of human creativity and whimsy.

I ask that you strive to assume that my humor isn’t personalized or weaponized to offend, which is a favor I’ll reciprocate. If there’s doubt, we owe it to one another to further give the benefit of goodwill unless the preponderance of evidence tells us that someone is speaking or acting out of spite.

When someone lashes out at me for a badly-timed or placed joke, I’ll repay their impatience and impoliteness with a reminder that I probably have the upper hand in this argument.

Do unto others – and I certainly do. I welcome all humor, from tripping down the stairs to jokes that would cause many to burst out in tears.

P.S. If you heard 1/50th the nonsense that goes through my head or that I say in private, your head would explode indignantly. The truth is, though, that we both know that you undoubtedly have at least a portion of my dark bent in your own head. That overlap is what gives us hope.

Also, I’m in the picture on this post three different times.

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The Secrecy Ricochet Certainty

 

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Several days ago I wrote about vagueposting.

This isn’t a polished post. It’s just what is running through my mind. Do not take the time to read it if you might get triggered by my stupidity or errant abuse of words and ideas. This post is going to make a few people uncomfortable. Because I suffered the effects of it directly when I was younger, I feel competent to blather about it.

A couple of days later after my vaguepost commentary, a relevant enigma emerged, one involving a tertiary acquaintance and an unexpected death. Instead of just stating what happened, people involved circumspectly concealed the details, which of course is their right. That’s a tough sell in the era of social media. They tried, though. They stepped on toes, left ominous overtones by what was omitted, and generally made many who initially heard of the untimely passing say the worst about ‘how.’ I cringed to read what was missing by implication. As a bona fide lout and perennial foot-in-mouth sufferer, I learned more by what was NOT said.

That’s what people always do. If you think they don’t, you’re fooling yourself. Humans fill in the gaps with whatever information they have and preconceptions they possess. You have the absolute right to live your life in the manner you see fit and to not share things with those you choose not to. You also have the right to remain silent, but as Ron White paraphrased, “That ain’t happening.” Part of the damnable compact with social media is that people are going to ask “What happened?” Some will be tactful and some will not.

I had another one of ‘those’ conversations with my wife: if I get a DWI, shot and killed while impersonating a bank robber, or die in a horrible misunderstanding involving a case of stolen pepperoni, I want her to tell everyone. Publicly. On Facebook. Text blast, too – and even email, if the five people who still use it for personal communication are interested. She can just tell a couple of friends who are worse than a 1950s telephone switchboard operator. She can simply add the don’t-tell-anyone clause, thereby guaranteeing immediate repeat and publication on the hidden channels we all use when we find out anything interesting or salacious. I have one family who is so gossipy that people allege she knew about a family member’s death before the family member even kicked the bucket.

Everyone is going to find out, anyway. Worse, they’ll write, DM, private message, text, call, Skype, or ask 3,587 people what happened until they find out. We all have that one acquaintance who will resort to kidnapping and extortion to find out what we know. It’s easier to spill the beans before the water-boarding commences. Death is a resounding knock on everyone’s door. It is one of the two unifying life experiences we are all guaranteed to share. It is hard-wired into our genetic makeup to ask and inquire.

I’m already going to be hurt, dead, or otherwise encumbered by whatever it is that people want to know about. That people know immediately in no way worsens the situation. In many circumstances, it will improve the sanity of those around me. If whatever happens to me isn’t my fault, there shouldn’t be any embarrassment about it. If whatever happens to me is my fault, it still happened – and everyone is going to find out about it. I just hope I’m wearing clean underwear.

If no one is sure why someone passed, then simply say that. I experienced this same horrific uncertainty myself years ago. Even after getting some answers, all my questions weren’t addressed. It’s okay to say, “We don’t know” if the reasons and details aren’t clear. You can of course also say, “It’s none of your business,” which is the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire and ensuring that the person will not rest under the ‘why’ of it is uncovered.

Watching this particular incident unfold once again proves to me a LOT of people were seeking answers behind the scenes. One group was working to find out what happened. The other, of course, was working to keep the details secret, which means that about 1/2 of those whispering were finding out through informal sources. In short, everyone is going to know.

I knew that if I used my particular skills and punched away at it, that I would find someone who knew and had posted on social media. I did so, because I was asked to. Using the most arcane and plodding system you can imagine, I found a post from two days after the incident involving the acquaintance. The route I used to find it resembled a map hand-drawn by a cocaine addict after nine days without sleep. The person posting knew the family by acquaintance. She had been given a minimal explanation, probably in hopes of dissuading further questions. It didn’t, of course. She passed along what she knew. The family of the deceased didn’t overlap much with the person sharing the information so the Control Headquarters For Family Information couldn’t stifle the sharing.

Before you launch into a weird ‘privacy’ argument, it’s important that you remember that the word you’re using doesn’t mean what you think it does. The same holds true for etiquette, manners, or decorum. In the same way that the first question following death is, “What did he or she die from?” attempting to conceal details is only going to make it look like you’ve got something to hide or that an element of shame is involved. Again, yes, of course, it is your right to say nothing. Saying nothing, though, brings consequences too.

It’s true that it is considered bad manners to ask about someone’s death if you are not directly connected. Our brains, though, continue to seek an answer even when etiquette tells us to shut up.

Equally important for you to understand is that I earned this viewpoint in the most horrific manner possible. It’s one of the reasons I’m so hardcore about it. It’s not that people have a right to know your business. I’m not making that argument. People will know your business, though, even if you miss the whispers and back channel communications. I am, however, shouting at you that trying to keep anything quiet is the equivalent of having a picnic and bbq in the trunk of your car during rush hour.

I didn’t come by my opinion lightly.

Got a DWI? Yes, everyone’s talking about it.

Sick? People will feel immense sympathy and many will reach out to help. But they still want to know.

Talk? Yes, of course. Every single time. About everything and anything.

When our social groups were smaller, concealment of the particulars was impossible. In our larger world, one fueled by communication, people still feel that need to know.

You don’t have to like it or embrace it.

Ignore it, though? At your peril.

If I die unexpectedly and the people around me are being coy about it, you can be sure that I died horrifically, as if I suddenly started liking Donald Trump or became a fan of milk as a beverage, watching sports, or testing high voltage wires with my tongue.

You are welcome to make up any story you want to.

Because you’re going to anyway.

And you should – if the people left behind when I sprint off into the unknown won’t tell you what stupid thing I did to hasten my demise.
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The Secrecy Ricochet Certainty
Divulging private information immediately invariably lessens the quantity and intensity of the inquiries which otherwise result in an avalanche.

Live Your Life: The X-Hanlon Repudiation

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No matter what, we live our lives in the moment. Often, we convince ourselves we don’t. It’s an illusion. We’ve all said or done things that later come to diminish our ability to continue living good lives. We’ve placed our foot so far into our own mouths that we can taste toenails, so to speak. Whether we’re joking or we’ve simply intersected with the random wheel of life, what we’ve said or done infects our memory and turns us away from remembering the shared joys.

We can’t know that someone is going to die in his or her sleep, fall from the sky, or roll their car 13 times and get crushed underneath it. We do know, however, that these things are going to happen to a LOT of people every day. Statistics tell us that 150,000+ die each day. (106 per minute, if that seems more comprehensible to you.)

If we take overly careful steps as we walk through life, we sacrifice a great portion of what’s possible to what brings fear. We become afraid to speak or to express ourselves because of the immense ‘what if’ lingering on our tongues. Experience teaches us that life is painful. It is also our only opportunity to prance honestly through these ridiculous obstacles we all share.

If humor is at stake, we should err on the side of lunacy and caprice. Life has already sentenced us to death. I see no great reason to allow its shadow to overcome us as we go about our routine lives. A great gaffe will survive a long time. We all love to share stories of incredulity about what friends and family said or did.

Hanlon/Heinlein’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is explained by stupidity.

X-Hanlon Repudiation: Assuming you are interacting with people of mutual like or respect always feel free to do or say the thing which expresses pleasure, joy or greater enjoyment to the moment. Errors may arise – but humanity will exonerate.

I wince when I see the pain that results from good people regretting the things they’ve said or done in good spirit. Life is not only short, but it laughs at these self-conscious hesitations.

Good people will not bear malice toward you for openly embracing life and its whims. Mistakes are going to happen.

Go ahead and tell your grandmother that her house smells like boiled derriere if it makes her laugh. If it’s the last time you speak to her while she’s alive, you will have shared a moment of frivolous life together. There is no greater compliment than sharing your wit, wisdom and laughter will someone. Do not soften who you are because fear sits on your shoulder.

For anyone who knows me, you’ll know that this idea is one I earned one stupid comment at a time.
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Charlotte’s Hope

a mothers remembrance.jpg

 

Charlotte once resided in a modest house on the corner of Lilly Street and Shumer Way, nestled inside one of the many decaying towns in the delta area of Arkansas. While she hadn’t stepped foot inside the family home in decades, it was still an infrequent and lingering beacon, a place that once defined her. Her mom had departed this world unexpectedly just as Charlotte hit her stride as an adult. Though her own life was full, a little air exited her soul with her mother’s passing. She not only had buried her mother but a sliver of her own life as well. It remained in her hometown, cloistered and protected from the world.

The promise of life blossomed before her, of course, but the loss of the person closest to her heart would always be one characterized by that uneasy and painful feeling one experiences after swallowing too big of a bite. In Charlotte’s case, the bubble of discomfort failed to fade completely. Each new experience, every shared story, and all moments of clarity occurred with an invisible and almost indiscernible hand on her shoulder. As time marched forward, the hand would feel lighter even as the bruise on her soul deepened. If a kind soul such as her mother could find herself so ingloriously subjected to the injustice of unearned disease, it could writhe toward anyone, despite nobility, intention, or merit. It was a hard lesson to accept but her mother taught it with unimaginable and sublime beauty.

She’d find herself in her hometown, often without remembering the interstate or the quaint highways that brought her there, the same byways once traveled by her mother. The engine of her car would be thunderously ticking, even as the beads of sweat rolled down her forehead. After untold minutes, she’d lower the driver window. Her eyes would devour the familiar details of the small covered rear porch and door, the one almost everyone used. The front door was almost ornamental; someone announcing himself there invariably identified as strangers. She knew without looking that there were 18 rows of white clapboard ascending the side of the house, culminating in exposed painted soffits. Some nights she would slowly emerge from a dream and could still feel the rough sensation of those painted boards as she leaned against the house of her youth. In the summer, one could feel the heat from several feet away.

The cacophony of the summer insects would reach her ears, the hum of mosquitoes would play its summertime melody, and she would cry. In her hometown, most memories anchored in the perennial summertime of her youth. Her mother was so close and the echo of her voice was a lingering presence in the humid air. Whispers, languid syllables of laughter and love, all these intertwined and coalesced in the way that only occurs in Southern towns infected by the paradoxical need to move away.

The peeling paint of the place she once called home still called her name. The four side windows once adorned with light and familiar faces now blankly stared outward without regard. The lawn now screamed for someone to show it the attention it once took for granted. No children would dance in its hidden garden again and it was likely that no family would claim it as an anchor before the structure yielded to the inevitable neglect and gravity. This town and all other places like it are the observable results of entropy; all slide toward darkness and disorder without a guiding force to sustain them. She felt sometimes that her mother was the same dynamic demonstration of physics and that her growing absence was slowly accumulating in her own body as a void with a widening precipice.

The apparition of her mom walked the streets next to the house, idly chiding an unseen canine companion as it wandered in exploration. That her mother might indeed be slightly beyond the unseen membrane between this place of the here and now and the unknown seemed plausible. It was a spell without resolution, though. Hours of fondly wishing it to be so proved the fruitlessness of the endeavor.
“Claire,” Charlotte would cautiously whisper, her mother’s name a secret she dared not say aloud, all these years later. The name, once fallen from her lips, would unleash something primal inside her.

The expectation of her mother’s return was the closest thing to an afterlife that Charlotte could anticipate. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in a decade, she would also yield to this world’s demands and sleep one last time, to awaken in the place wherein her mother now resided. It was promise enough for her, beyond even the lofty covenants given to her in church.

Mother and daughter would join one another in raucous laughter, undoubtedly in the unassuming kitchen of her youth. Love would be on the menu, forever, accompanied by the foods with which her mother had so gracefully adorned the family dinner table.

For now, though, Charlotte experienced the heat, the buzz of insects, and the observance of the disintegration of the cradle and crucible of her innermost heart. She could feel the fingers of time furtively clawing their way up her spine, just as they were doing to the integrity of the house she once called home. Both she and the house would inevitably succumb.

As a bead of sweat coalesced against her neck, those same fateful fingers chilled her and she smiled the most secret and indecipherable of smiles that puzzled everyone who knew her.

Not everyone holds onto life with desperation. For some, hope lies beyond, away, and in lingering embraces.

Meanwhile, some of us, like her, sit in the gathering dark in our versions of curious little hometowns and wait. All of this, each detail, is temporary on a sufficiently long enough timeline.

Memories abide and love resists the void.