Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Carpe Diem, The Irish Wake Is Tomorrow

Carpe diem. For tomorrow you die.

Life is short. How many times have you heard some version of that? Some kind of profundity inevitably follows. There’s been a bunch of death and dying around clan bingo of late, so we’ve been forced to think about this. But is it? Is life (in the developed world) really all that short? I’m not so sure.

My day job is medical, and I hang around older folks 8-10 hours a day all week long. They used to check out in their late 60’s and early 70’s back when I started out, but it seems like almost everyone is hanging on well into their 80’s now. Every now and again someone dies young, though, and those deaths resonate so strongly that we forget that they are actually the anomalies. The 52 yo father of a new friend, my 45 year old friend Ken…they represent the outliers now, not the 90 year olds who pass on “unexpectedly”.

The take home here is to be prepared, whatever that means to you, not solely for an early departure but also for a long, long journey.

I attended one of the most interesting funeral services the other night, the one for that 52 year old father of a new friend (brought to me, yet again, by CrossFit). I won’t go into all of the details, but one that struck me was the fact that the Pastor who officiated had a somewhat, how shall I put this, superficial knowledge of the deceased. Oh, he knew a couple of the big things, but it was notable how few details he knew about a man who’d been a part of the congregation for some 35 or 40 years; he was reading from the obit.

Made me think a bit. Who would officiate at my funeral? Should anyone? If so, would they know me? Who would eulogize? What would the atmosphere be like? Funny to be thinking about this, but I wonder.

It’s sad to lose a loved one, even a loved one you may not really like all that much. The loss of your remaining parent makes you an orphan, no matter how old you may be when that happens, and that;s some heavy stuff to carry to the funeral. It probably doesn’t really matter all that much if the person officiating knew you–you’re dead. Priests, Rabbis, and Imans have been pretending to have intimate knowledge about the shadow dwellers in their flocks for generations.

No, I guess it’s more a matter of style, of atmosphere. I really love the whole New Orleans jazz funeral and the Irish Wake things. A celebration of a life and a life’s stories. We ALL have stories, and they just keep getting better as we get older and polish them up a little with each telling. Heck, to hear a couple of my guys tell the stories, only Johnny Rogers was a better punt returner than me back in the day!

There’s The Reverend Mel in Indy whom I love, a Baptist firebreather who never fails to move a soul, but he may not be available. If anyone else cares, I’m preparing for both a very long and a very short life, and no matter how it turns out I don’t much care about who might man the pulpit. A party, though, a celebration of whatever highlights there might have been, however few, now that would very nice. A little music, a few glasses raised, tears only of laughter.

Until then, though, carpe diem.



2 Responses to “Carpe Diem, The Irish Wake Is Tomorrow”

  1. January 9th, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Jim winkler says:

    D – pretty somber post-birthday blog…. Ironically, my older brother and I recently had a convo on this topic. I shared that, while I planned on attending my own funeral, I was not expecting to be in a position to pay much attention to what was said or sung.

    Moreover, I think the important point is the actions we take, the journey we are on, before that fateful day. Not sure if you have ever read “The Dash Poem” by Linda Ellis but it touches on this topic in a wonderful fashion.

    With apologies for any iPad typos, here it is:

    I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone, from the beginning to the end.

    He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

    For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

    For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

    So think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left, that can still be rearranged.

    If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real, and always try to understand the way other people feel.

    And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more, and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

    If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last awhile.

    So, when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

    My sister turned me on to this poem, after she heard it at a few 9-11 funerals she went to in 2001.

  2. January 9th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    darrellwhite says:

    Very nice! Thanks Jim. The genesis of the post was the very unusual funeral we all attended last week, and how it seemed the Pastor really didn’t know much about the deceased.

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