Tag Archives: memorial

The Stage or the Curtain

2 years ago, I lost my oldest friend. I had gone back to my hometown to attend our Boy Scout troop’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. I was a pretty terrible Boy Scout (I collected all of the arts merit badges — and plumbing, ’cause it was funny), but Mike was one of the people that I was most looking forward to seeing. Sure, we both had our own separate lives now, but he was always like family to me. Plus, I was really looking forward to teasing him for getting poison ivy on his balls at Camp Sequassen, because let’s face it, that was pretty hilarious.

Mike never made it to the party. Only a few of us knew why.

His wake saw over 500 people descend upon our suburban Connecticut town. It was an incredible outpouring of love and support; in a way, that made it worse. Maybe if Mike had seen the amount of people who turned, the number of lives he’d touched — maybe he wouldn’t have thought of his own life as being so expendable.

Maybe. Maybe not.

At the reception following his funeral, a few of Mike’s friends put together a slideshow with memories of him. These were friends that Mike had made in more recent years, especially at college, and most of them had never met his family until that week. The slideshow concluded with a video of Mike performing The Decemberists’ “I Was Meant For the Stage” at an Open Mic night. I had forgotten that he had finally stepped out from the backstage of the theatre and began performing (I think we scarred him in 7th grade during the filming of our home movie sequel to The Story of Rikki-Oh).

If I have ever seen a ghost, it was in that video. I still remember the exact moment during the song that Mike’s mother lost it, when he sang “Mother, please be proud / Father, be forgiving / even though you told me / ‘Son, you’ll never make a living.” I don’t know how much Mike’s college friends knew about his life in high school, but the song choice was frighteningly poetic; my mother even thought it was an original, autobiographical song that Mike had written himself.

That night, I followed the funeral crowd to Mike’s favorite Thursday Karaoke bar, and sang in his memory. It was strange, seeing all of these people with so much love for my friend — and not knowing who any of them were. That’s just the nature of things, I suppose, as we can go on to new places and start different lives. I listen to his friends share memories and stories, and I wish I could chime in or relate, but again, it was a different life for me. Still, it always comforted to know that he had continued to grow as a person, but never really changed at the heart of himself.

Each year, around this time, I try to make my way back to Hamden; there’s always a walk, or a fundraiser, some event in his memory. Everyone else — the friends I met at the services, extended family — they sit together, laughing and chatting and sharing stories. I feel bad inserting myself into their world — I don’t mean to rob their grief for myself, nor do I mean to intrude on their celebration. I know sometimes they wonder who I am, what my connection to their cause is. If they’d ever ask, I’d tell them, don’t mind me; I’m just here for Mike.

We Will Become T-Shirts

No more dates engraved in stone — now when our bodies grow weak and die, we become t-shirts instead, emblazoned with an image of our smiling faces captured in our youthful prime and frozen in a moment how our friends like to remember. Our souls are screenprinted in vinyl on a 50/50 cotton blend and passed out to our loved ones so they can wear our memories on the outside and then take them off when it’s convenient. Most run in XtraLarge so our family and friends wear our souls to bed to comfort them while they dream; the rest run small and find their use as undershirts or painting rags. Others still wind up in a four-sided wooden box, buried beneath the catacombs of clothing in the bottom dresser drawer. Some lucky few end up on plastic lunchboxes with matching thermoses for soup, plastic frisbees, or kitchenware, and find utilitarian purpose in the afterlife until they are conveniently misplaced or warped in the fiery depths of the dishwasher. Our fabric memory is not as weather-resistant as granite, but at least it’s portable — itinerant, like our own weary lives. But if death is a fashion, then immortality is merchandise, and these days everybody wants to live forever.

Shit For Brains

She drops memories like tiny
shits behind her where she
walks, a trail of small,
hard excess condensed into
pellets and buried beneath
her bedding at dusk. And
when she wakes, aroused
by tunes, or the crinkled
sound of sunburnt prunes,
the rest of her remembers
in its actions — thumbless
hands supporting chins,
the precious cuddling of
dust upon her pelt, the
endless fights for sustenance
against her sibling rival.
But still there’s something
missing in her muscles
when she sleeps, the only
thing remembering the warmth
her mind won’t keep.

Shark Grief

Stop and sink,
so just keep swimming;
always keep your fin up.

(Rest in Peace, Mama Cooter)