In my last column for 2011, I made mention of the many, many funerals I had attended. All told it was 8 up to that point. That’s a lot by any accounting but factor in that it was a grandmother, a grandfather, my wife’s dear aunt, a few far too young, a few that showed just how majestic the passage of time can be and I think you understand just how incredibly deeply these things start to cut after awhile. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Christmas Eve I found out I would have to attend another funeral before the New Year. So, I gathered my wits and attended funeral number 9.
At the funeral and at the wake people did what they do when someone past their prime of life passes away, they talked about the full life the person led, they discussed how he lived everyday and did exactly what he wanted. At the funeral it was discussed how this wasn’t a time for mourning but a time to celebrate the long and good life of the deceased. Well, I’m here to tell you, I get it, I get wanting to celebrate someone’s passing. I get not wanting to dwell on the fact that this person will no longer be here every day. I’m here to tell you though, when I die, if I live to be 39 ½ or 106 I want no celebration. I want no one talking about how I lived a good life and now I’m in a better place. I want no one taking comfort in the fact that whatever I’d been enduring is over and now I’m at peace. No, when I pass away I want everyone pissed. Trust me—I will not be at peace, instead I will be pissed that I died.
When I do finally succumb to death I will be madder than anyone has ever seen me. I will be angered that death won and finally claimed dominion over mad. I will know that I have been robbed of the chance to look in Kim’s eyes again or kiss Jack again or walk with the two of them around the block after dinner; I will be upset knowing that at some point I’ve had the opportunity to look in Kim’s eyes or kiss Jack and selfishly didn’t. Death will have claimed my earthly body but not my desire to be with the ones I love dearest and to show them my love.
I know this isn’t healthy. I know you’re supposed to be able to find Zen in death. One only need look at the way Steve Jobs handled his passing (if final reports are to be believed) to see how you should handle the news and your own eventual death. I’m not there yet.
Over the weekend I’ve had a lot of time to think and to consider why I’m not at this place and why I don’t know if I ever will be. Here’s what I’ve decided—it’s easy to be ready for death when you feel like you’ve done what needed to be done in this life. On one level then I’m never going to be ready to die. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel I’ve ever held the hand of the ones I loved enough, ever kissed them on the forehead enough, ever had intimate conversations with them enough, so death, that inscrutable bastard is going to win there.
Looking at it from a different perspective I see that I have to find my ledge of faith from which to leap. I’m quite serious about this. I’ve spent most of my adult life not leaping, or not leaping when I should have. I’ve played it safe for a myriad of reasons. When I have leaped I’ve leapt for the wrong situation. I’ve always viewed it like that scene in Singles where the main character says “I’m taking stock, thinking, thinking how I trusted my instincts and they were wrong. Wrong, the opposite of right” or something like that anyway. Now’s the time when I have to take a leap of faith. It’s too easy to become that guy that worked middle management for IBM, that bald guy a little over weight that wore a polyester short sleeve button down shirts and bad ties that guy that a year before retirement and his gold watch his put out to pasture. I don’t want to be that guy. When you look at all the successful people in the world they all leapt when it would have been so much easier to just stay with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Without that leap we never would have got the word cock in Howl, never had Microsoft or Apple, never had a Jackson Pollock hanging in a gallery…I could go on but you get the point. All these men were willing to say screw insurance, forget norms, I don’t care about bodily harm, I’m following my vision. The funny thing is it’s only when Pollock quit trying to draw form did he find success, after being fired by Apple is when Jobs put the steps in place to develop the IPad, you get it.
So, this year I’ll be spending a lot of time figuring out why I haven’t taken a leap of faith yet. I take risks, I’ve made iffy decisions, what’s prevented me from my ultimate leap of faith. After I’ve done the appropriate amount of soul searching and penance I’ll be looking for my cliff and once there I’m going to start the journey to the edge, close my eyes and leap into and with faith. It’s my only goal for 2012. Maybe then I won’t be so pissed to die. I wouldn’t count on it though, something tells me I’m always going to be screaming into and against the void with that one.