working shit out

Not even sure why I'm posting today.
The funeral's gonna be Sunday the 25th; doors open at 2, service at 7, end at 8.

Had a dream last night, but I think it was a my-brain kind of dream instead of the other kind. It involved an evil-elf sort of character and rooms with teleport doors, some of which worked while others didn't. Plus dream-politics that gave me very specific but non-rememberable ideas of what was going on and what I was supposed to do about it.

Me and Dave, Fey and Meg all went to the funeral home to make specific arrangements yesterday, and Dad's best friend went with us. That guy is one cool guy. The only comparison to what him and Dad must've been like back in the day, to end up such good friends, is Hawkeye and BJ from MASH. Except they had guns, sneakiness and other dangerous tools instead of surgery. And yes, Dad would've been Hawkeye, except taller and fatter and not in a hospital. Damn right not in a hospital.

Afterwards the four of us young'uns went to the medical examiner's to view the remains before they got cremated. They wheeled the body up in front of a big glass window, with a sheet covering all but the feet and head. Dad had asked Pearl to be sure and insist on seeing the whole thing. We ended up not doing that, though Pearl felt bad about it after. But I think it was important, for more than the visuals, and it was the right thing to do.

I wish there was a way to put it in words so I didn't have to say you have to see the empty body of somebody you love to know the feeling. But I did the reading-people thing, sent the probe out or whatever, and when it got all the way to the middle it just stopped. And for a couple seconds all I could see was matter, just a big pile of matter sitting on a slab with no person in there. Then the faculties of my brain kicked back in, making me remember what his face looked like when he was still behind it. In case anyone was curious, he died wearing an expression best described as grim determination. I would have been surprised to see anything else.

And it makes me annoyed at the usual practice of prettying up the dead bodies' faces and trying to put expressions on them for open-casket funerals. Maybe for people who don't read people or who need a really strong stimulus to get the grief reaction over the hump, it's necessary. Maybe otherwise it'd be way too creepy and the funeral-goers would feel all embarassed in their finery. I dunno. We already knew he'd left. But the old man's Catholic name was Thomas, because he doubted everything, and wanted to see what was there with his own sight. If we hadn't done the same thing there we'd've sorely regretted it. I'd rather have seen him that way, is what I'm saying, than made up in some dogawful fakery whose sole purpose is to make people cry who didn't like him all that much or barely knew him.

That's something I really respect about Dave's reaction, by the way. The politics of this whole funeral business really pisses him off. People who were on bad terms with Dad or hated him or whom he didn't like or respect suddenly showing up and wanting absolution from us in his name. Dave thinks it's a bunch of bullshit, and Dad probably would have too. But when the shit annoys him I talk about social groups and Marcel Mauss, about aegis and how feeling responsible is shit but being responsible matters. And turn to the people and smile, and smile, or look concerned and grieved when appropriate. Makes me want to say shit about live vultures and dead lions and the relative tastiness of vultures.

But the phone's ringing and if I'm gonna hide out at work, I'd better start working.


the girl called door said...

I know the feeling. I've seen 3 empty shells now, each I've loved superbly, but imagining any of the 5 closest to me is terrifying. So, in that, I guess I don't have the complete understanding that you do.

I agree that it's a wasteful effort to try to create some false face for a showing. If grim determination was what was there, why not tell the truth to those who would care? I mean, I know they wouldn't have seen it in this case, and for that you were shown something very private, but the idea of it generally is like a slap in the face, even after you've kissed the current earth goodbye. If putting on a "face" in waking is as painful as it is, then why that final mockery?

At any rate...I don't mean to rant. I mean to console. And you remain ever so brave and eloquent through it all.


Fiat Lex said...

Thank you, I'm comforted to know we are on the same wavelength about this.

Maybe in cases where, like, the person died with a really unpleasant expression like anger or pain, but for some reason people still wanted to show the body, it wouldn't be such an insult. I dunno.

It is sad that we have to experience these things, but confronting the harsh parts of reality can often help us find the strength within ourselves. And realize how that strength got there in the first place...