It’s been a couple of days since the funeral that made me mad, and I’m still kind of crabby. Fortunately, I’m on the couch with a little red dog and a big glass of red wine. Don’t worry, I will not allow the vino to blunt my spiritual instincts. Yet, anyway.
Here’s the thing. I’m fine with the focus on the life to come, whatever it may be. Any of us would rather think about what comes after rather than being stuck in a box in the ground, and I think there’s more to life – real life – than what we can perceive through our limited bodies.
But it just doesn’t do justice to the one who has passed to focus only on the life to come, because funerals aren’t just empty rituals. They perform an important role for those who have lost someone, and who can’t get them back, at least not in this life. They’re the rite that helps those who loved that someone to start letting go and to think and feel deeply about what they’ve lost. It’s fine to talk about the life to come, but not before the person has been properly mourned. Mourned, dammit. This is a loss and it’s not right to skip over that fact because it’s easier to talk about the life to come than it is to talk about the life that’s over.
But the truth is I’m also mad that we can send a man to the freaking moon, invade other countries, and create a beer bottle whose mountains turn blue when the beer is cold enough, but we can’t figure out how to keep breast cancer from killing sweet women who quilt, love their daughters and sons, adopt new sons, and plant black-eyed Susans in their back yards. I’m mad that she got 56 years of this life, which can be painful but can be sweet, when creeps like Augusto Pinochet can live to be 91. And I’m mad that my dear friend, her oldest daughter, only gets to know her mom now through pictures, memories, and her heart. That’s not nothing, but it’s all she’s got of her now and it’s not right.
I know it’s a uniquely American thing to get all bitchy about something as natural and inevitable as death. Our culture doesn’t teach us how to lose or have expectations that line up with reality. But I’m not ready to care about the life to come yet; this life has been cheated out of a lovely lady. Safe travels, Julia Lowe. I miss you.