Today, I find myself getting ready for an unplanned, and lengthy drive north. The passing of a friend never sets one in a “great” frame of mind. But funeral rites are an important part of the process – a process for those that are still living here.
I remember when my parents passed within six months of one another. My mother, who passed first was cremated. Six months later, while I was at my first OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, I was informed of my father’s passing. A few weeks later, I was contacted by the funeral director at the cemetery in the gated, retirement community my parents had built their home in. Apparently, my father had never picked up my mother’s ashes to have those interred. Now, I had the ashes of both of my parents to inter. I contacted my sister in Louisiana and asked her to come up for the interment. She declined. I stood in front of the columbarium’s two niches that my father had purchased for their final physical resting place. I watched as each urn, inscribed with my parents’ names was placed in their respective niches. No words were spoken. I watched silently as each little door was closed and secured, locking my parents’ physical remains into their place.
My parents never wished for a ceremony for their funerals. They wanted the family to live their lives rather than “wailing and crying over their passing” (my father’s exact words to me shortly after my mother had passed). As I have noted in the blog before, I was never close to my parents. My mother was a domineering individual who had my entire life planned for. I was to go to college, get degrees aiming me towards being a doctor, and marry a particular young lady that she knew back in Germany. I’m serious. She had it all planned out for me. I screwed all that up by joining the Air Force. But she still wanted that marriage to go through. I had other (hasty) plans. I married my first wife before I was deployed overseas. After that, I was considered the “disappointment” of the family. So, my relationship with my mother was always contentious. It didn’t change that she was my mother. I still loved her. In my own way. To my father, I wasn’t conservative enough to be “useful” in his eyes. Still, we tried our best to keep a cordial relationship between one another. Despite all of that, I still would have preferred some kind of ceremony to remember them when I placed them in the columbarium. Instead, I deferred to their wishes.
What happens when we pass? Well, I don’t claim to know a damn thing about that. I believe in reincarnation and past lives, though I have no way of proving or disproving the concept. I’m not sure that I would even care if there was a way to prove or disprove the concept. I believe in what I believe because it brings comfort to my life. Comfort in the idea that there is more than just this life. There are people that I have met that I have strong connections with that I cannot explain. Past life experience? Past lives that recognize one another? Possibly. That doesn’t mean that what was compatible or strong in the Past remains the same in the Present.
I’m getting older. Let’s face facts, we all are. Our time in this life is a finite one. I look back on where I’ve been. Part of looking back comes with the inevitable peek at the long line of friends and family that have passed beyond the veil to become specters of what has been. All the while, I hear Crow whispering in my ear “What’s necessary is forward, not backwards.” Still, I occasionally feel the road getting shorter and shorter. To quote Garth Brooks:
The competition’s getting younger
Tougher broncs, you know I can’t recall
The worn out tape of Chris LeDoux, lonely women and bad booze
Seem to be the only friends I’ve left at all
And the white line’s getting longer and the saddle’s getting coldGarth Brooks, “Much Too Young to Feel This Damn Old”
I’m much too young to feel this damn old
All my cards are on the table with no ace left in the hole
I’m much too young to feel this damn old
From a dream….
Looking out over the wide-open countryside, I slide off the top rail of the metal fence that snakes from horizon to horizon. On the other side of the fence, is the land I know. Where I’ve lived. Where I’ve adventured. On the side of the fence that I now stand, I watch the setting sun drift below the horizon, shrouding the unknown into darkness. The distant mountains that call me, slowly fade into the dark fabric of night. The soft sounds of the night begin to arrive as I lean back against the fence. That adventure will happen soon enough, I remind myself. I still have a lot to accomplish on the other side of this fence. I place my left foot on the bottom rail and swing my right leg over. Shifting my weight, I move my body over the top rail to land on the other side of the fence. I mount the motorcycle and kick the engine to life. Time to go back. Back to my responsibilities. Back to where I need to be. Back to what I am meant to do. I glance over my shoulder at the mountains that have completely disappeared in the gloom of the night. Someday. Just not right now. There are things to do. People whose lives I still belong in.