Friday, March 23, 2012

One Dance


I sat through my aunt’s memorial service for my 52 year old Aunt on Wednesday, by far the closest person whom I knew who died of cancer. The ceremony, like the family was deeply Christian with songs and texts quoting the Christian text in Revelation “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” It was heavily emphatic on the hope of another day where the family is reunited. I would have a conversation with someone else there who isn’t Christian who shared their views on reincarnation and death being a freeing of the soul. I was atypically quiet during all of the services and the after dinner. People shared stories and laughter and sadness, the family making an unusual request that if they were crying to let them do that alone, letting the overwhelming sadness be a private moment.
I sat there and remembered the orchata she made and the fact that she always was kind to us in complete sincerity and reprimanded us with as much sincerity but less conviction, kindness flowing more easily. It was good to see that her children were there and took it as gigantic compliments that they were much like their mother in their looks and character. I am not sure Kiana should ever take either of those as a compliment if someone said that to her about her father but it sure makes me want to continue to work on my character; the looks there’s not much I’m going to do about. Still, it was a great service with the family both reflecting the current moment and holding on the hopes from their faith.
As someone who used to be a preacher, who comes from a big family and who volunteered in the Marshall Islands where funerals are a community event, I’ve been to far too many funerals and memorial services, burials and cremations for a guy that’s just 31. There has been the range of black clothing to ones where lots of alcohol and party facilitated the tears or was drowned out by laughter. People sometimes think this never hit me originally but it did because funeral plans were drawn up in case something went wrong with the surgery and this kid who always wants to have influence over how he interacts with his friends had even given my ex 3 different statements to give out if surgery went okay, bad, or deadly on my facebook. Todd (the guy who will be the executor of my will, but to this day is incredibly kind by saying that he’ll give a eulogy but it’s not going to be for another 50 years… at least) and I had a very fun evening a couple of weeks before the seizure that would start all this. A friend of ours was doing the Komen Race for the Cure and we had both donated money. I’ve raised money for Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity, my daughter’s day care and various organization that I’ve had loose or tight connections with through tournaments or races and he asked why I’d never done one for cancer. I said then, I’ve never really been close to anyone who died of cancer. Less than 2 weeks later, I’d be diagnosed. In between those two we went to an improv show where the comedic routine thrown out to the group was worst line ever delivered at a funeral and there were some funny ones though I honestly can’t remember any of them. Todd and I went out to eat after and talked about that piece and we tried to come up with our own and the one I came up with was that he should say at my funeral was “Psssh, so what, I’ve got two other friends.” I couldn’t convince him to promise to say it at mine but I’m still hoping.
My uncle whose wife had just died of cancer kept introducing me as the guy with brain cancer, making me uncomfortable but I wasn’t going to tell him what to do or say at his wife’s memorial service. Still, it made me remember and wonder about my own funeral. As I’d sat last year before, the surgery, I told people to make sure I didn’t have one, that I didn’t want any romantic sentiments, just to be cremated and flushed down the toilet. Todd rolled his eyes and reminded me those services are not for the dead but for the living to process the senselessness death often has.
I listened to my Boston marathon playlist on the way home from Houston and realized that there are two elements that come out more often than anything else. The first is that we have one shot. I don’t know if there’s a heaven or reincarnation or if I die tomorrow if I get to meet with the ones I loved here ever again. I like the sentiment (which is why there’s songs like Amazing Grace early in the process) but the songs on my playlists in the end, when the marathon will be getting tougher, are songs like Bon Jovie“It’s my life and it’s now or never I ain’t going to live forever,” from a Bug’s Life, “It’s the time of your life so live it well,” and Eminem’s “you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, the opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo.” I think I made a few mistakes in the Austin Marathon playlist but I also think I made a mistake in the mentality to be thinking about Boston before Austin was done. I would be sitting in an ambulance less than 2 weeks after that and am in the middle of many medical tests. I appreciate and fear the perspective cancer gives you that the future is ridiculously unpredictable.
The other element that comes out over and over in the playlist is that there are just all kinds of references to dancing. I don’t know if I’ll ever end up with anyone again but if I do, they better be able to dance. Caedmon’s Call “Dance” is on there, “Why don’t we just dance” “Cinderella” about dancing with my little girl to name a few.
So tomorrow I do my last 20 mile run before Boston, perhaps the only time I’ll ever get to run another marathon, but I also have Kiana’s training wheels to take off and show her how to ride a bicycle. And once we figure out how to do that we’ll go home and dance to celebrate it. Someone would send me a poem because they knew I was struggling with this death of my aunt. I can’t improve on what it says so let me finish with that and just say if my memory ever gets eaten away that I hope this is one of the last things to go:
In those days,
we finally chose
to walk like giants
& hold the world
in arms grown strong
with love

& there may be
many things we forget
in the days to come,

but this
will not be
one of them.

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