I don't have an image for this post because I broke my laptop. I got mad and smashed my fist down on the keyboard, and now the screen has a permanent glitch that looks like a flower. I wish I could have taken a picture of that, for use as the obligatory image to accompany my text here, because monochrome glass-blossoms would be fitting for the subject of this entry. But so is imagelessness. The reason I was angry is that I had to meet with the pastor of my mom's church, along with my family, regarding burial and funeral arrangements for my earthly father. As you know, my dad has been stranded in the nursing home for years now; his mind was claimed by dementia way back when... I think it's been about two decades now. Sheer hell. But on Monday he finally died. When someone suffers so long in such an inhuman state, death is a boon. I wasn't being ironic when I chose the title of this entry; I was thinking of those beautiful lines of Walt Whitman, which I've cited repeatedly:
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
So I've felt light and relieved and joyful since receiving the news, because he's free. But I felt rage because I hate the church's ways: I'm wholly against funerals.
And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. (Matt. 8:21-22)
I'm eager to meet up with both close and distant family, to share memories with them; and I understand the sadness that comes from realizing that a loved one will no longer be in this world; but I think that to let sorrow dominate the mood is all wrong. If anything, it should be the exact opposite.
Plus, for the pastor to mouth on about the Apostle Paul's crackpot theories and drape stale religion over the event is beyond annoying. It's insulting that a guy so NON-spiritual as my dad should have his death graywashed with faith-talk. And he wasn't likable, sorry. Everyone tries to present the life of the deceased as if it had been honorable. But my dad was mostly belligerent and selfish. Put a bow on that. It's stupid to paint him in platitudes. The one good thing is that he's finished suffering. Only a petty soul wants his enemies to suffer. (Rev. 20:10) My soul is distinguished, like that of Lucifer, which is why I agree with Jesus: "Resist not evil." (Matt. 5:39)
My mom is bothered by this death. She's still worried about my dad. She has misgivings about his journey in the so-called afterlife. I'm amused because, in my experience, this anxious attitude is common among those who label themselves Christian. I'd imagine that it'd be the opposite. But, as I always repeat, the wisdom of Jesus is different than the theologizing of Paul: the sayings of Jesus vitalize one's soul, like the writings of Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, William Blake, etc…; whereas Paul's mad theories only make one spiritually paranoid.
So, like I said, even now my mom is worried about my dad. I say to her: But he's finally done with all the pain and horror! Whitman is right: There never was any more heaven or hell than there is now. And dad just graduated from hell. He served his time. This calls for a celebration, not more of your moody brooding. It's like the story in the second book of Samuel (near the end of Ch. 12), where Yahweh the Lord God strikes David's infant with sickness (verse 15) and the child is thus tormented for six days and dies on the seventh...
Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.
And David said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. (II Sam. 12:21-23)
On a similar note, but admittedly a little less uplifting, this passage from Ecclesiastes (9:4-6) also comes to mind:
To him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
What's sad is how my dad spent his life when he had it. When in full health, instead of contributing to any kind of humane progress, he alienated everyone by focusing negative criticism on their thoughts and behavior. He fell under the spell of neo-conservatism and barricaded himself inside talk radio's terrordome – he put his trust not in any descendant of Messiah David but in the deception of President Reagan; he had faith not in Jesus but in George W. Bush. I mention these facts not because I myself am a believer (I side with Thomas: my credo is Doubt) but to contrast with the ridiculous claims that the churchgoers will assert about my father now that he cannot gainsay them.
And any truly worthy lesson that he taught us was unintentional, at once implicit and necessitating reversal, in the nature of "Don't fail as I did."
But I don't wish to be too hard on him: he did have his decent side – I liked how goofy he'd often act. He loved comedy. He had the good sense to steal a lot of stuff from W.C. Fields.
Plus he loved animals. He never let us own any pets because he said that they should be able to roam free, which isn't possible where we lived in the suburbs (which he always called "the city"). In the country, he would say, you can have a dog and you don't have to keep him chained up.