Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Purpose of Tradition

Tradition is a touchstone; a place of comfort.

When families scatter, traditions plug them back into the familial identity despite distances.

In good times, they are warm comfort. In difficult times they are a place of mooring. In times of grief they can be all that keeps us above water.

It's been tempting to lay our Christmas traditions aside; who, after all, wants to celebrate when not just one loved one passes, but two? With Mom's passing three weeks ago, a numbness settled in, and Christmas would be muted in its glory. Now, with my brother's death just yesterday, numbness becomes a hollowness. A whittling away of who we are. Charli pointed out we have lost 5 loved ones in 1 and half years. Our dog, Lynette's grandfather, my brother-in-law, my mom, my brother... not to mention the loss our dearest friends are suffering...

What, then, for Christmas? It's tempting to feel guilty if we celebrate. But we should, nonetheless, celebrate. Celebrate family, for how long we were given with them and not for their loss. For continuity, because if we don't celebrate with traditions, our loss is felt more keenly. For memory, because things from the past will bump up against the present... perhaps they will be bittersweet, but perhaps not. Perhaps they will be the sweeter.

And finally, for gathering, even when we're apart. My sisters will be doing much the same thing we are. Eating lavishly, making popcorn balls, doing things in a certain order, all the usual season things. And so will we. Sharing an experience even though separated by thousands of miles.

Yes, there will be moments of sorrow. Perhaps the waffles or cinnamon rolls won't taste as sweet, but through our traditions we will stand up to the threat of mortality and profess that through the passing of traditions, there is no mortality.

My family practices will go on even longer than my family name. Is that not immortality?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ad Content

Let me qualify that I do not choose the ads to the left of this message. It is relevant marketing sifted by the content of my blogs. Presumably the word "grief" and "pass away" brought up the crop of vulture ads currently displaying.

Forgive the term, but I'm more than a little frustrated by the "grief industry." Many of the companies built around laying a loved one to rest are legitimate needs, some are not, and unfortunately it seems the rule that because they pretty much hold everyone hostage, they can charge outrageous prices (to be fair, there is a funeral home in Mt. Vernon called - appropriately if not cleverly - Affordable Funeral Services, who live up to their name. They didn't gouge my Dad like so many others are).

Mom and Dad bought plots at Floral Hills Cemetery, right next to Mom's parents. The purchase did not include funeral services. Another company handles the remains and preparing them for interment - in this case an urn with some expensive plastic sealing capsule ($200).

Nonetheless, Floral Hills wants to charge my Dad just under $600 to dig a 2x2x4 hole. With all the other nickel and diming, it comes to around six thousand dollars to lay Mom to rest. It makes me see red. There is no way to justify the amount they charge. It bothers me as much as the scam where crooks take an expensive order of "something" to a grieving widow or widower and guilt the survivor into paying for goods the deceased never bought. God help anyone dumb enough to pull that on my family.

That fellow who sings "Prop me up beside the jukebox when I die" has got the right idea.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My receiver is glitching...

I may have blogged about this already, because I know I've thought about this before and with mortality more in-my-face right now, I'm thinking about it again.

I believe the brain is more like a receiver/processor than a generator/processor. That marvelous hunk of fibril gray-matter doesn't generate thought like a mental turbine, it receives it from "outside."

Compare it to a cerebral intranet. Your brain is like a browser; thought doesn't originate in the headpan, it is "broadcast" from the rest of you, where ever that "rest of you" is. I believe that who we are is much more than just flesh and thought. We are spirit in the non-Newtonian place beyond "here" that is being projected fractionally into our 3-D meat sack. We have a spirit, which is beyond, a mind, which is the fractional part in our head, and a brain that processes it all.

If our brain is damaged, through scrambled genes, accident or disease, "we" are not damaged; that is, the spirit is unharmed, it just isn't transmitting as easily - or at all - in the brain. While here, we are sort of unconscious about our spirit (though I think the Bible tells us all this) but it exists. Dunno if it's "active" where ever it truly resides until we're through with 3-D life, maybe it is (Biblically, the spirit is dead or corrupted until Christ chooses to regenerate it, but the text doesn't say the spirit resides fully in us and implies strongly that it does not).

My mom's memorial is today and I can't be there. But when I say I (and my mom) are there in spirit, I firmly believe that is literal.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Jews Have it Right

We have no rules for grief. Jews have rituals they have to observe. I think (but not sure) Catholics might have some too.

Us lowly Protestants sit figuratively scratching our heads after a loved one passes on. Grief is not an overwhelming flood (at least not when you've had months of expectation). It laps up the sand in small waves and sometimes large ones, but for much of the time you don't feel anything. You ask yourself "is it alright to go to the store?" "read a book?" "get some work done?" Is it appropriate to pack your grief in a to-go bag and move through your life?

I will miss my Mom tremendously; there is no one else I have loved every minute of my life as I have her (I love my children every moment of their lives, but they came along late in mine, as did their mother). "Bitter-sweet" takes it's meaning from delighting in knowing she's in paradise and yet missing her here on this Earth.

Maybe I'll think of some rules. Sandy T. gave me a good one about writing notes on balloons and releasing them to the sky. Maybe we'll do that with the kids on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I got the job, by the way

It will take awhile to get accustomed to reporting to work every day and having to stick around when I don't have anything to do, but it's going to be a fun job, I think. Big potential. :)