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Location: Midwest, United States

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


It appears my mind wants to follow a darker path…a rarely trod tract, overgrown with thorns. The path of dark thoughts. So be it. My mind will go where it wants. It always does (because my heart remains the all-powerful puppeteer).

I don’t know about you, but funerals always elicit thoughts of …well…funerals, in me. What else should one do, while sitting patiently, quietly, in a simple display of support for the bereaved, but contemplate the occasion and the scene? I think of the ritual, the emotional comfort inherent in ritual at times of great sorrow. I think back to eulogies given (I’ve presented two, myself), thoughts expressed, displays of kindness and charity. Every funeral is different, often reflecting on the character of the deceased…and the bereaved. I think our rites have power, great power, to comfort and heal.

My thoughts turn to my mother. She and I have been engaged in that “long good-bye” that Alzheimer’s represents. Spending days, weeks, months and then years roaming the halls of an Alzheimer’s ward affects the brain. The sights, the sounds and the smells bore inside the skull, becoming an ever bleeding, open sore.

Let’s get back to eulogies, shall we? I heard that Greeks would eulogize their honorees by asking (and answering) only one question: “Did he have passion?” That seems reasonable to me. Don’t our passions define us?

I’d say almost all eulogies highlight accomplishments, distinctive character traits, passions (to one degree or another), and all the beauties and joys that the individual imparted to others. It is a good thing, truly, to reflect on all the good within your average human being.

But then, if one wanted to truly define who someone was, can you (should you?) avoid mention of the darker sides? My mother is a case in point. She was, in many ways, a truly remarkable woman. Both angels and demons drove her, though. She is, without a doubt, the person who molded me the most. Her handprints are all over me. And…her self same demons and angels make themselves felt in me. If I were to try and explain the impact that my mother had, I could not avoid relating how all her varied facets imprinted themselves on me.

My mother taught me the difference between loving and cherishing.

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