Life Signs Flying Buy

I mentioned a few days ago, I miss when life didn’t feel like a rollercoaster.

I’m going to write about random things as they come to me. This is an exercise in blog discipline and personal exposure.

I applied for a job yesterday, not going to say where, but I’ll say it was a job for a company that has A LOT of power and is very popular (Not wal-mart). What am I trying to say, they don’t really have to EVER worry about finding employees to hire because they always have a line of people who need a job. The online application was a little insulting and I actually thought it was a tad exploitive.  I’m pretty sure a couple of the questions they asked aren’t even legal. For instance, they didn’t ask your age, but they did ask if you were over 18 and under 40. Ya, how stupid do I need to be to read the writing on that wall? And if you don’t answer, you can’t continue with the application.  Then they asked questions about how likely do you think most people steal often? How much do you think people really believe politicians? Ok, ask the minimum wage people if they believe politicians? WHAT?  Compared to your friends are you more satisfied with your life? Or less satisfied than them? But they neglected to ask. DO YOU HAVE FRIENDS. LOL!!  Then they asked, twice in different ways, how likely you were to keep your desk organized and how imporatnt that was to you. Honestly, if I ruled they world, there’s no way that application would fly with me. In a very strong description, I’d say it was like an application a baby nazi created. This  application  was for a very run of the mill job that thousands of very needy, uneducated, educated, no other options people  apply for daily. It’s not a rocket science job, not a job with the responsibility of saving or destroying the world. It’s basically a job to breath air, be a body,  and make sure there’s something for a customer to  pick up and buy. It’s not like a job that involves a gun and travel to another country.  I felt like a guinea pig for some ivy league psych research data base. Everything about this application felt very under the table and shady. I’ll be very curious to see if they call back. Will I get to work in the coal mine and use my paycheck to shop at the business owned store? Time will tell. I should mention, this was not a funeral service affiliated business in any way.

This morning I took my little dog out for her usual thing and through a series of events, she ran off. This lead me to go find her. When I found her she was pointing like a hunting dog and then I saw a big fat dove fly from the ground and cling to a branch above. The dove lost its grip and hung upside down for a moment, then fell to the ground. I watched it resting on the ivy infested  slope of the creek bank. I was a little baffled. I was a little annoyed. Do I really need to start the day out like this? God, I hope this isn’t some sign from he universe.  A struggling dove falling to its more than likely death alone? I thought about going down into the creek to retrieve it, but it’s not as easy as it sounds; mud, poison oak, water, bugs. I just didn’t have time. I thought to myself, nature is just going to have to take its course. In my head I imagined weeks of seeing a big fat dead dove on the banks of the creek. Seriously, I don’t need this right now.  I went inside and did my morning routine. I came out about an hour later and the dove was gone. So, nature did it’s thing and I’m going to assume the bird flew away happily.

Two events, one a lesson in complete human control with calculated sneaky domination over others, the other a lesson in   the ambiguity of the universe, trusting it can handle itself for the best.

Disco always makes me feel better 🙂

A Field Trip for Everyone

Late last year, towards the end of the semester, our program was invited to visit Christy Vault Company in Colma. Christy Vault Company  has been serving funeral, cemetery, and  private families with quality products since 1948.

The infamous vault, the “why do we have to buy that” item.  I often hear people express frustration and disbelief a vault is necessary item in the burial process. I’ve even attended a meeting where a Doctor challenged me in the importance of a burial vault. The vault, a hard sell for many and it’s not really surprising in our culture.

First, you probably don’t want to pay for a vault because in logical terms, the vault will be buried and you’ll never see it. Who wants to buy anything like that?  We like to see the things we buy, we like to enjoy what we buy, use the item for pleasure. So, spending a large amount of money on a vault, no fun for sooo many reasons.

Secondly, we live in a culture already  deeply programmed to believe nothing is  really “necessary” in the  burial process. Most people head into purchasing funeral items with the same thrill of buying a used car. And, ugh! There’s that pesky funeral director to deal with, cough, shyster, right? Why not just take your money and burn it? I mean, getting a root canal seems more fun and worthwhile right?

Well, I’d like you to think about where you got your ideas about funerals,  funeral directors, how much you really know about the whole funeral process,  what a funeral might, or should mean to you. Where did you get your ideas?  When it comes to death and the rituals of death, often our ideas are ones that are still handed down, and we have no idea how or why we believe them.  In fact, often they don’t make sense to use anymore just another what? Family tradition? New Science? God is dead why bother moment? Whatever, your beliefs, your desires, you’ll probably find out, you just accepted the ideas and expectations that were given to you over time and without question. If you look a little closer you might even realize there are some stereotypes and sneaky biases going on. What if these stereotypes are wrong and actually  adding more difficulty to an already difficult process in life?

There are many  good reasons why vaults are necessary and I’m just going to lightly mention a couple cause, well, snooze.  First is safety for all who visit and work at a cemetery. You’re probably thinking, “What?”

The fact is, when you place a casket in the ground, over time, the earth will settle, and that space where you’ve placed your loved one, will settle and without a vault would become a large divot in the ground. This might not sound like a big deal, but think about visiting a cemetery that’s scattered with moderate sink holes all over the place; All those little sink holes, where a loved one is.  I dont’ think that’s very pleasant. Without vaults it would be impossible for you to visit your loved one in a very peaceful and organized way. It would be impossible for the cemetery to maintain the grounds in a respectful and presentable fashion that’s safe for employees, as well as families visiting. Maybe this sounds trivial, but if you’ve ever been in deep grief,  you know the last thing  you need is more chaos, visual chaos or signs no one cares about what they do for you or your loved one. Imagine visiting a cemetery where grass, weeds,  and dirt made it impossible to navigate to find your loved one? It sounds dramatic, I know, but that is the reality of a cemetery without vaults. The burial vault ensures  a visit to your loved one is a safe and comforting.

Secondly, the vault protects your loved one from a lot; Water, soil, and other things you may or may not imagine. Why might this be important? It’s a personal thing I suppose. There are people who want to know their loved one remains protected for as long as possible.

So that’s just a couple of reasons why vaults are necessary.

Christy  Vault did a great job showing us around their business. The information I share here, mine. These are two points why vaults are important most people aren’t aware of.  Vaults are much more complex than my oversimplified explanation.  Christy Vault has  a  genuine care for an item a lot of people are resistant to purchase. They did a great job teaching us why what they do matters and helps all those they serve including their community and employees. They are proud to be made in America.

This is a little slide show I made of our trip. There’s a picture of people holding the lip of the vault to feel how strongly the adhesion is, that’s a Christy specialty. The last picture a group picture.

I should Have Known

So, the internet reminds me how old I am getting. I am a disgrace to my generation when it comes to technology. Of course, life got the best and worst of me the last few months, soooo the blog faced neglect. How does the world of blogging punish the blog neglectors? The powers that be, make changes, so when you return, you must once again, learn to navigate the whole blogging atmosphere.

How do I know I’m getting old? In a word, Change. changes are often the one thing that make me grumpy and want to detroy the world. LOL!! OK, maybe not that extreme. Maybe  I don’t mind  changes so much, but I do mind how they come out of the blue and soak up my time in lessons of re-learning over and over again.

So the semester was insanly intense. No, seriously, intense. I’m pretty sure I learned 500 new words in three months. In the middle of all that, my dog developed cancer. So, I’ve been dealing with a case of impromtu doggy hospice. I’ll save all the thoughts about that for another post. Of course, there was the whole issue of the surviving the Hoildays. Thankfully, I’m just numb to them now.

So this post boils down to this, something I did over the holidays, I watched a movie called the Loved One. I checked it out from my local library. You can find the trailer on Youtube, but I don’t think the official trailer really represents the movie so I’m posting a clip of the movie. The movie is a satire about the funeral business. Liberace plays a funeral director, that should pretty much put  things in perspective about the movie. I like the beginning of the movie, by  the end I’m ready for it to be over, but it’s still worth watching. There are a number of performances that are incredible. Mr. Joyboy is the performance of a lifetime. Love him, but soooo glad I don’t have to ever really know him. 😉

That’s all my rusty blogging fingers can output today. Enjoy the clip, check out the movie.

Priorities of a Brainless Flower

These are the last blooms of the year from my small garden. Each flower pictured has been   extremely tenacious. Two grew from seedlings, one has an expensive pedigree,  one re-homed to me, and one has changed its color entirely to survive, me. Sometimes I look at the flower that changed its color and I’m a little annoyed it’s no longer the color I wanted, but then I think I can’t really say anything because I pretty much forced it to change color. Can plants throw a protest? Maybe.

I used to love my garden; In the last few years, not so much. Despite my neglect, there are plants that have refused to die.  I have pushed some of them to their limits more than once,  they still made a cheerful come back. Sometimes I have looked at these flowers and wondered, are they  stronger than me? Do they understand life better than me?  Are they motivated by death and/or life? I’m always amazed  how they  insist it’s very important they bloom before they fade away. Maybe we should all be so tenacious about blooming?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Warrior

Lately my  life has been a little, painfully magical? Are those the right words? I’m not sure. they are what comes to mind for some reason. I stumble upon things, and I wonder why?

I’m an odd bird, there aren’t too many people who could live my life, and sometimes I’m not even sure I’m the best person for my life. People frequently look at me and think I have a lot, have it easy. All I can say is, I have never been Kim Kardashian. My road, bumpy as hell like everyone else’s road.

Lately, Ive realized there are things I’ve lost and will never get back,  you know, like time. It’s one thing to start life and see hope in the future, it’s another when, at certain age, you realize there are things that aren’t coming back and can no longer be hoped for. How do you keep going? What sustains drive when all the typical reasons, motives, and hopes are slowly disappearing and become gone? Do you reinvent your hopes and dreams? Start living from a blank sheet of paper? Or start a new TO DO list no one has ever seen before? Could that be the scariest TO DO list ever?

So, I came up with this idea yesterday to actively consider death daily. Later in the day I started over thinking it, I was even feeling a little scared about it. I was getting insecure, even thinking maybe this isn’t a healthy thing to do? What if I end up hurting myself more than . . . what? Helping myself? What’s wrong with me. LOL!

I usually go to bed and watch a movie. Last night I watched Blood Brother, directed by  Steve Hoover. I innocently stumbled upon it thanks to Netflix. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, seemed like the same old story, entitled westerner goes to India to help suffering kids, changes his life, hero,  yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

Well, this movie ripped my heart apart. Grab a tissue! what am I doing with my life kinda movie. It’s true, the movie is about a guy who goes to India to help kids, but the amount of love, bravery, dedication and fierce drive in his heart  is truly what  makes this movie a MUST SEE. The movie shows the striking contrast between his life in the US, and his life in India. Look at the relationships with his blood family, and the family he builds in India.  Poor kids, with nothing but secrets and health issues live, love, and glow more than the most comfortable adults and children in America? Why? Are these kids living through their feelings? Needing feelings to survive? Aren’t these kids suppose to be depressed?  Living with life and death can make you glow from crying and laughing?

This country has incredible issues with health care. We force people to have health care, why? Because it’s too expensive if they don’t? Or because we care and think it’s important they are taken care of? What is our collective consciousness on this? Who is it too expensive too? Tax payers? communities?  A governmental budget? When and why did it become so expensive? How did we decide the priority of expense and care? What is the true illness health care is really trying to solve?

Big Brother, challenges viewers to consider how they love, how they care, what their community, and relationships look like. Many foreigners visit India, leave, this guy moved there to help. The community didn’t always love him, in fact he faces a crisis and his safety is in question at one point from helping. His heart told him to go to India, but his heart didn’t promise a smooth or comfortable road.  He faced huge moments of mind-blowing grief and rejection from the community a few times. The film does an excellent job of sharing how those moments created mental, as well as physical doubts he was doing the right thing with his life and how he overcame his doubts.

The most extraordinary thing about this film is the love and care given and received. There are a number of kids that will touch your heart, but there is one that will just smash your heart to bits for all the right reasons. A child who wasn’t receiving the best of health care, had AIDS, and everyone feared to touch. You will want to step up your care game after you watch how much love, care and dedication this complete stranger gave to this little boy.

We focus so often on warriors that hold guns and kill. I challenge you to watch this movie , if for no other reason than to reconsider what a warrior  looks like to you.  I dare you to tell me Rockyanna isn’t a warrior the world couldn’t use more of. The world, including America, needs more warriors like Rockyanna.

The Applause Around the World

It’s funny, I went to a Death Cafe a few weeks ago and many people seemed frustrated  speaking about death seemed taboo in most social circumstances. I went to dinner with a friend and we ended up talking a lot  about death. After our dinner, I realized, maybe we talked about it too much for her taste? I started thinking, maybe I just talk about death too much. Of course, then I thought, so why the hell have a blog that talks about death so much? What’s the point of writing about something no one really wants to read  or cares about?

Sometimes the internet feels like a massive return to high school, one HUGE massive popularity contest. If you’re not popular, you just don’t exist.  It’s annoying. I don’t mind not being popular. Oh sure, it would be nice to be popular, to be loved, adored, but what if you can’t, or don’t’ want to be a popular person? Oprah always said she wished everyone knew what it was like to walk into a room and the entire place stood up and clapped for you. For most people, if that happened once in a lifetime, it would be great. I’m sure many would say she deserves those claps of affection, yes, yes, yes, I know. However, 3/4 of the rest of the ordinary world deserves a round of applause too; Moms, dads, grandparents, friends, kids, teachers, garbage men, hospice workers and on and on.

I was standing in front of my refrigerator and out of the blue I was struck with this notion it was important to keep taking and writing about death. It was like I was looking into a black hole, but it wasn’t scary, it was very comforting and confident. I’d even say it felt like a relief?

Later in the day I thought to myself, what would be the danger, or problem with talking about death openly and often? Seems silly to ask, what if we all felt conformable enough with death to talk about it openly and randomly? DOn’t we do it sometimes? Like when you warn a child, “you’ll be sorry, one day I’ll be gone!” What if it wasn’t  something that struck our hearts like a knife when we had to talk about it seriously?  What if death didn’t make us cry instantaneously? Depress the crap out of us? Clear a room in a single word? Would we live and love better? Would we take life for granted more or less than we already do? What’s the danger in feeling comfortable and accepting of death?

So I decided, for a year, I am going to think about aspects of death and  see what it does to my life. Obviously, not the hardest thing to do considering I am studying many aspects of death, but I wonder, if becoming more comfortable with death will make me live differently? Better or Worse?

This one is for anyone who hits play.

 

How To Die in Oregon

 

Last night after I read a few chapters of The American Way of Death. I put the book away and looked for a movie to watch on Netflix.What do I find?  How to Die In Oregon by director Peter Richardson.

Yes, this is my life. Friday night and I’m reviewing the immune system, reading The American Way of Death, and then watching How to Die in Oregon. I’m worse than a nerd at this point. Sigh.

How to Die in Oregon is a must see movie.  The beginning is a little mind-blowing, I almost turned it off, stick with it.  This issue, the right to choose to die with dignity, will touch every family in some form or another. Everyone will have a loved one, or a friend who will deal with many of the situations found in this movie. How to Die in Oregon casts a broad net over the many lives touched by the process of death and a choice to take control of death. Saying, “I want to die”,  the easy part, not a cowards way out or suicide as you’ll see in the movie. This movie digs into everything that comes after a person decides to control their death and how it impacts their remaining life and those they love.

I loved all the people in the movie. All the families and individuals were truly genuine, living, and dying with very brave, caring, and thoughtful hearts. They were all the type of people I enjoy meeting. All I can say is, living is no joke. I hope everyone takes the time to watch How to Die in Oregon. At the very least, you’ll feel inspired to hug, or call someone you love just because you know you can.

The American Way Of Death

IMG_1587-0

 

Do you have a negative attitude about funeral homes? Hate the idea of dealing with a funeral director?  This book, The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford might be what inspired  you to feel that way. I often hear this is THE book that rocked the funeral service world so deeply, even today,  funeral homes still deal with the impact of her words.  I decided to check it out, see what all the fuss was about. How did this book turn an industry upside down for generations? Make those in the funeral industry the bad guys? I can tell, just from the inside sleeves, there won’t be much love for the funeral service world. I guess one of my questions, where do we get our ideas about what a funeral should cost? When did we decide funerals shouldn’t cost much? When did we decide spending money on a funeral is very close to feeling like wasting money? How long have these ideas existed? Before or just after this book?

I Don’t Know, Maybe That’s Good?

Dirt and Paint: What Is That?

Something that just doesn’t make sense. Sculpted paint on a desert floor miles from civilization. Only a few ever saw it.

I had dinner with a friend last night and she mentioned her father-in-law is dying. She mentioned the family will be taking a trip to visit him with the very big possibility this will be the last time they see him.

This morning I wanted to write her husband a note, tell him something, but what? It’s one of those times when we fumble, we don’t know what to say, and anything we think to say seems, cheesy, wrong, or ridiculous.

My heart goes out to my friends who will soon be dealing with one of life’s most difficult events. Four different people, different genders, different relationships, different stages in life. Where do we find the models to cope with a final visit of a loved one? How do you know that last, “I love you” has enough power to last a lifetime? What if we don’t feel love? How long do you hug a person before you feel it’s ok to let them go forever? What if you don’t want to touch them?  How do you inventory your brain’s memory of that person and feel confident you have enough memories to last a lifetime? Maybe you don’t want your memories? What about the sneaky little regrets that suddenly pop up? That unique anxiety that suddenly searches your brain to fix a regret in 5 seconds. Can there be models for this? Should there be? What are the words I can give  a friend in such a complex situation?

Helplessness . . . is so tough. We are constantly taught to make things better, and then there is death, the process of death. Sometimes it comes with warning and it’s a slow agonizing road. So many lives keep moving, have to keep moving around someone who is dying. The world doesn’t stop for a birth, why would it stop for a death? Bills gotta get paid. My friends have two days . . . and then what? Go home back across the country and live until a phone call? I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but it is how it is in their case. I guess, what I find so difficult,  walking away from a significant person, like a parent, who is so close to dying. I’m not sure where I get this idea everyone should have the right to stay if they want or need to.

My grandmother’s death was barreling straight at me like a jetliner. Who could miss that, right? In many ways, I did, I didn’t see the jetliner,  even when I was straight out told, “she is dying”.  I was right beside her, but not with her. In some ways we were both dying and slowly being resurrected. The last day I saw her, at least the one I remember as her last day, was so simple it almost went right over my head. It was so deep in feelings, intensity, and denial,  it didn’t seem real.  The brain and the heart really duked it out on that day. I am thankful my brain and my heart, as disastrous and protective as they were, found the wisdom to collect the memories and the words I needed for both of us on her last day. I’m glad when I  walked away from her my head and my heart wouldn’t allow me to comprehend just how large those steps were.

I love the process of death because it challenges the hardest of hearts to feel. Death is relentless. The strength to journey through death is an important strength. The lessons of death are difficult but beautiful if allowed to be learned. I often think the strength we find in the final hours of a loved ones life is the largest example of who we should be in our daily lives, just on a less intense level of course.  It is the strength to arrive and tell those we love they matter, their life matters in whatever form it has taken; good or bad.

So my friends, with all their brave hearts,  will make their journey to their loved one, and I will wish them all that life  and death can offer them during this difficult time. I wish them lots of complexity, simplicity, laughter, crying, anger, sadness, resolution and all the colors that come when life meets death. I will wish them love.  (more…)

Composure

BIrthing

I spent a ton of time writing a post about my Death Cafe experience, and for some reason (GRRRR) it didn’t save on WordPress. Soooooo I’m sorta frustrated and feel like moving on. Long story short, Death Cafe Good, check one out if you can.

This morning saw a video of a guy who jumped into a shark infested ocean to “surf” a dead whale. I wondered, where did he learn so much comfort and acceptance of death? Of fleshy decay? They guy practically sinks his face into a decomposing whale.  At the Death Cafe, I guess I am going to write a little about this, many people seemed frustrated American society seems to have an unspoken ban on talking about death openly. For example, I mentioned I went to a Death Cafe to a few people, they thought it was creepy and too depressing to ever go to one. Ironically, it also happened to be Halloween and half the people I saw– Zombies? We can’t speak of death, but we can play dead? Is this a subliminal message we’re all missing?

What if we felt as comfortable with death? Took it a step further, became comfortable with all the unpleasantness that comes along with death? You know, the emotional pain, the bloat, the stiffening, the smells? Is ignorance truly bliss when it comes to death?  If we think about it, the process of death, of decay, is about as green as you can get. Being green is good, right?  It’s sort of the ultimate homage to going green, but this is the unspoken green? The decomposition of a body is as natural as the composing of a fetus. When we welcome a life we study, prepare, learn and fill many lives with hopes and dreams. When death arrives we scramble, grasp, wonder, and often stress the strongest of relationships with grief and  loss. A palliative care doctor in my group asked, “When did death become such a tragedy in America?”

So, here’s this guy, on the other side of the world, jumping into shark infested water, sinking his face into rotting flesh, floating around, living life to the fullest? Or is he just interested in Building the worlds most unusual bucket list? Was he so over educated in how to be cool, someone forgot to educate him about death? Now, he says he was an “idiot”.  Did he realize ignorance motivated his actions?  If families don’t talk about death, if communities don’t talk about death, aren’t we all capable of surfing a dead whale too?

BTW no, I’m not advocating dead whale surfing and yes, I am rambling a bit.