Tag Archives: wake

wakes and wakefulness

26 Sep

This has been a day in which I feel more like a cat than a human. I want to sleep. And then sleep some more. Maybe take a nap after that. The sense of tiredness I’ve been feeling is hardly dented by black Kona coffee and definitely not relieved much by the handful of hours of rest I throw at it from time to time over the last few days. There’s reason why it’s been about a month since I sat down to tap out a notion or two for my first blog. Life gets daily as an old southern saying goes. Nothing new for me or anyone else reading this, I know. Like many folks, I get caught up in the currents of making a living, raising kids, running a household, blah blah blah only to look up a few days or weeks later to see that I’m much farther down the river than I expected since the last time I bothered or was able to look up and attempt to read my bearings.

So it goes. Life. Moving, ebbing and flowing and we move, ebb, and flow right along with it. It’s nicely delusional when I feel like a have a grip on it and can control something of where I’m at in it but if I’m honest with myself, having a grip on life is about as realistic as having a grip on a river. I can’t exactly hold on to either in a symbolic or literal sense of the word. This thing called life will just keep on flowing whether or not I like the current or depth or rocks along the way. And it seems that we bump into others and sometimes, the river keeps them near us throughout its course and others are swept away from us, even if we swim like crazy to stay within hand’s reach. Life is funny that way. Well, I think that’s enough of river metaphors. We get it, Mike. Life is like a rambling river. Duh. Get on with it, man.

So like many preacher sorts, I say one thing to really say another. To get to what’s really on my mind. Us dang preachers are doing that all the time, aren’t we? Today, I began a sermon talking about dressing up with my family as zombies for Halloween. The sermon really had nothing to do with zombies but much to do with the masks we can wear on non-Halloween days of the year. So it is with rivers too. Just so you know, there will be no advice coming up on successful kayaking or exciting river rafting trips.

What I’m wondering about is how we remember the journey at its end. I have the job of doing that all the time in funerals, memorial services for individuals and groups, celebrations or life, or whatever else you may want to call the ceremonies we hold to remember and honor the departed at the end of their earthly life. I speak at the occasional hospice conference on such and have ‘done’ more services than I have clear track of. I’m currently in the ballpark of 150-200 funerals that can have “Reverend Michael Moore” associated with them, but I never bothered to keep any records. Regardless, here I’ve been, trying to weave the life story of people into poetry, planning and presiding a gamut of burial ceremonies as simple as a pine box next to an open grave with two attendees to a service for a community leader that was filmed for news and had the participation of firetrucks, honor guard, and a drum and bagpipe band as part of the ceremonies. Whoever thought I’d be the guy sought out to do more than the occasional funeral? Not me. That’s fo sho.

But like life, what we do is often unpredictable and here I am in a tradition older than history. The buried remains of Neanderthals have reportedly been found with flower pollen distributed on them in a repeatedly characteristic way, leading some to believe that even these most ancient of our forebears had burial rituals and beliefs about it all.  Along with that, I attend a lot of funerals for hospice patients I helped take care of but who’s services are conducted by other colleagues. I like to think I’m a becoming a sommelier of funerals, if you will, able to distinguish the nuances and quality of a day that most people would sooner forget than savor.

And strangely enough, I’m a sommelier in the sense that I savor these moments too. Again, another metaphor, but these moments of rememberance allow us to take a pause, sip in the meaning and chaos of life, swish it about inside, and taste the bouquet of life in general, a person’s life in particular and how we celebrate them both. Where is it from? What sort of fruit grew there? What hardships or benefits came in its growing season? What sort of earth did it grow in? How well was it tended? How was it harvested? How was it aged? Is it bitter, sweet, layered, simple, complex, etc.? Perhaps like those ancient Neanderthals and most of the members of the human family who walked the earth since, I look up at the stars, watch the sun rise and set, stare into camp fires, witness the newborn, the dead and wonder. What’s it all about, what it means, why we’re hear, where we go, what do we do in the mean time??

Make no mistake. I’m not exactly morbid or in love with death. Rather, I’m very much in love with the splendor and beauty of life, but learned quite young that death is a natural and unchangeable part of life. As Robin William’s character, John Keating, in The Dead Poets Society reminds his students, “We’re all food for worms.” May not sound life affirming on first hearing, does it? But it is my conviction that living with an awareness of one’s mortality enables us to live life more fully and more awake. As much as I want to nap away through the day like my cat, Tamale, has been doing since I got home from church today; as much as I need to rest a bit and catch my breath, I want to stay awake and aware. As much as I want to stop and lay down sometimes, it’s hard not to prefer to play, breathe deeply, pay attention, keep swimming in the river of life and not miss a beat of the drum.

I don’t know what my funeral will be like or who will come or how they will remember me. And I’m not sure how much it even matters to me, but I hope to die as one who fully lived with my eyes wide open and my soul filled with delight. I hope those who may show up will have a wonderful wake and if I have one druther come to be in such a gathering, it’s that this poem be read.

The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.