By: Kidman J. Williams
People look at death in so many different ways. Certain people don’t look at it at all, but those are the ones who are truly afraid of it. Death is not misogynistic, it is not racist, it sees no gender; death knows nothing about class, your job and cares nothing about your age. It is a cold mistress without feelings.
For thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years man has not fully understood death. We don’t know where we go when we die for sure. Of course there are blind leaps of faith through religion. Man has always come up with different ideas about death because we fear it and the one way to get over fear is to come up with a great story of purpose for life. There have been so many Gods throughout history that religion is like one big clown car. Yeah you know it, there is a place prepared for everyone as long as you are a good boy in life, trials of life and reincarnation; you can’t forget the 72 virgins and riches beyond your belief, and if you are bad, 72 STD riddled virgins and an endless supply of crabs. We don’t know this for sure, but incurable crabs would definitely be Hell. Ancient Greece had the Gods, until Rome destroyed, stole and renamed those Gods. I’m sure 200,000 years ago it was just the sun that people worshiped as a God. Even today with the decline of organized religion the population has taken to shows about ghosts, specters and poltergeists to ease their minds about the afterlife with some form of science.
Into the Field of Death
It was about 4 in the afternoon when I decided to forge out into Clarendon Hills Cemetery and its acres upon acres of fallen men, women and the deplorable reality of dead children; my Great-Aunt is one of those children. I went out to my Uncle Jeff’s grave, located in the middle of the old cemetery. I took my twelve pack of beer and opened the first one and poured it onto the grass of his final resting plot and set it on the headstone. I popped my beer and started to drink with Uncle Jeff. It is a ritual that has never died. He always loved a good party, as do I. I don’t go to mourn his passing. I go to his grave to celebrate what he gave to everyone in life.
As I looked around the cemetery I saw an old man just standing at a grave stone looking down. His face told a story of a man who wished he was in the ground himself. I wanted to go over to the old man and just put a hand on his shoulder, but people need to grieve in their own way. I believe grieving is a personal emotion. When people want a hand they usually will reach out for it.
It was unfortunate that Uncle Jeff died when I was only 5 years old. I always think about that when I’m sitting at his grave. I could always imagine him and I drinking and carrying on into the early morning. Just laughing and downing beer after beer and maybe even smoking a joint or two at some point through the night.
For people who don’t really believe in energy or spirits, I remember when my Dad first let me start drinking with him. I was like eighteen and we were all partying. Everyone was starting to crash at about 3 in the morning. I wasn’t ready to give up quite yet. I looked at my Dad and told him he wasn’t going to bed yet. He looked at me drunkenly like I was some kind of moron. I looked him in the eyes and told him, “You are staying up with me. It ain’t a good night of drinking until you see the sun come up.”
The gaze he gave me was an expression I’d never seen before on his face. You would have thought that he’d seen a ghost. He stared at me for a full seven seconds and said, “Whoa, I…I haven’t heard that in years. Your Uncle Jeff used to say that to me all the time when I wanted to go to bed.”
I was perplexed by it. “Well, then let’s stay up and drink some more!”
“I’m going to tell you what I used to tell Jeff…fuck you!”
We both had a laugh over that.
What does that mean though? Is it pure coincidence, is blatant alcohol abuse just fused into the DNA or is it hanger round energy? I’m not sure, but I am sure that even at 5 years old I felt a special kinship to Uncle Jeff. He was the free-spirit, partier, veteran who after Vietnam tried to flush his uniform down a toilet and hitchhiked across the U.S. He was a beautiful man.
A Dialog with the Dead
Aside from the old man and one elderly woman I seemed to be the only one in the yard. I watched the old woman for a minute as she started to do some caretaking around what I’d imagine was her late husband’s grave. At this point I was six beers into my visit and hadn’t really said a word to Uncle Jeff yet.
When the big things have happened in my life, I always made my way over to the grave. I always saw other people just quietly talk in their heads which never made any sense to me. If you are there to see a loved one, speak up! They are spirits, not mind readers! “Hey Uncle Jeff, how’s it hanging? Like you’re really going to answer me right?” I waited a moment. “I figured not. But hey, you never know. You were my first experience that I can remember with death.”
“Person by person I’m watching my childhood disappear and I guess it has been looming in my head lately. I think that is one of the more depressing facts about death lately. Everybody says how at a certain age you start feeling your own mortality, but it really is the loss of your childhood that propels the idea into your head like a nail gun. Your Great-Grandparents if you have them, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles; every year the holidays get thinner and the crowd seems a little younger. I’m slowly becoming the elder of the tribe. I’m too stupid and wild to be an elder yet. It seems like it is eventually going to happen whether I like it or not.”
“I just don’t find religion to be much of a comfort for death. Did you? I remember my near death experience. Right before I plowed the car there was nothing. I didn’t see my whole life flash before my eyes, there wasn’t a sparkle flash of some supernatural being. I had enough time to look up and shrug at the sky….WHAM! I woke up from getting knocked-out. The accident left me with a 2 week fear of driving through intersections and no spiritual awakening of any kind. I knew that I wasn’t afraid of what was going to happen, but it wasn’t some copious moment either.”
“What is so fun about death? The desire to die in this world amazes me, Uncle Jeff. Everywhere you look there are people that seem to really want death, but they don’t want to see it in their face; I think that’s why there aren’t people here in the graveyard except for the couple old people that seem to wish they were with their dearly departed.”
“Thank God, Allah, Buddha, The Great Green Boogie Loo in the sky that you aren’t here seeing this world right now. Every time there is a significant date like 6-6-06 or back at 2000 people were just begging for death and not just their own! They wanted to take everyone with them! I can’t stand these doomsday fuckers! Jesus Christ! Don’t even get me started on the religious radicals in this world. I’m not dumb; I know there were religious nuts in your day too. They are a special kind of stupid now though. ISIS wants to kill everyone or die for their beliefs; Westboro and the rest just seem to ache for the Rapture. It just seems like living life is out of fashion and I’m wearing bellbottom pants.”
“Every single disaster that happens in this world and everyone seems to think the ‘End of Days’ is here. I’m sorry; death just doesn’t sound like that much fun. Are you having fun listening to me complaining to you while you are stuck in a box…I didn’t think so. Hell, at least I’m drinking. “
“You know, when a person dies they give you all the pamphlets on the 5 stages of dealing with loss. You have denial, anger, bargaining, depression and of course acceptance. It sure would be nice if people could skip the other four and go right to accepting what they couldn’t change. People live and then they die. Well, you know that already.”
“Why does death have to be such a secret? Don’t you think God could make a better world for people if they knew what was going to happen for sure when they died?”
I tilted back my 10th beer and popped open my last beer. I brought the bottle to my lips and something in my mind just triggered and made a sound like a light bulb bursting next to your ear. “I think I get it. Maybe death is the ultimate motivator? If there wasn’t death and there wasn’t a mystery to it we would probably never strive for anything. Without the mystery we would just be horrible animals and not just the small percentage that we have already. Without having death in general, we would never try to achieve the great things that have been in this world. Problem is that I still don’t know where our energy goes.”
I just hope Uncle Jeff that when my time comes Death isn’t some bag of bones in a black bathrobe. I’d be more likely to go quietly if Death comes to me in a skimpy bathrobe looking like Jesse Jane.