02 November 2016

A Wake and a Mystery

Viewing (museum display), CasketMuseum of Funeral Customs
Springfield, Illinois, photo by 
Robert Lawton  2006.

Wiki lists one hundred and twenty one “expressions related to death” online:
the familiar at peace, at rest and in a better place together with the strange
(or stranger) bought the farm, hopped the twig, and joined the choir—euphemisms that help
adults hide death until open caskets confront them with bodies laid out in make-
up, formal clothes and flowers.  Only then can we awaken to reality.

I woke aged fifty one when Grandmotherexactly fifty-one years older than
I was—gave up the ghost and abandoned her body to be decorated, laid out
and mourned before we closed the box and took her to her final resting place.  She who 
did not believe in death let go, and her spirit didn’t wait to witness the wake.
Nor did it climb or sink, but magically became what humans cannot yet conceive.

If she had known this possibility, she might have gone to her reward sooner.
Like my friend Doug, who let a massive heart attack turn up his toes at forty six.
He left his body for science and his resources for parties.  We saw the raw
unvarnished face he left behind—he looked surprised, as if he found painless answers.
Nor would he let us mourn, but magically refreshed our spirits with his parting glance.

On All Soul’s Day, it's time to pray open-hearted for our dearly departed.  We
light candles.  We visit their graves, bouquets and stones in hand.  We stand to share
memories, pour libations, protest senseless death and war and more. We use belief
to wrap the naked truth we know, that we will live until we’re called to go.  That myth
and ceremony are for this side of the great divide.  That mystery abides. 

My blog poems are rough drafts. 
Please respect my copyright.

© 2016 Susan L. Chast


Anonymous said...

Love the way you've used so many of those expressions.
That myth and ceremony are for this side of the great divide. That mystery abides. ... death remains mysterious even though it is the utimate inevitability!

kaykuala said...

That myth and ceremony are for this side
of the great divide.That mystery abides

The mystery prides itself in extending an uncomplicated finality of the person's wealth and wisdom to guide those that come after. One can only be thankful knowing the good one had done during one's lifetime and acknowledge the support others had given. Amen!


Sanaa Rizvi said...

Oh Susan❤️ this is beautiful! Love the tenderness with which this poem is written ❤️

Lots of love,

totomai said...

I religiously followed the HBO series "6 Feet Under" and saw a lot of ceremonies. I know it's fiction but all of the scenes are close to real life.

I enjoyed the use of magically in two stanzas, it signifies a journey to another dimension. One thing is certain, there's no escaping death.

Gillena Cox said...

Oh how nice our motifs of 'wake' and 'undressing' trending each other's blogs today. Thank you Susan for dropping by to read mine today

much love...

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I love "that we will live until we're called to go"....and that "mystery abides." Sigh. Beautiful, Susan. I love that your friend wouldn't let you mourn but left you his parting glance and resources for parties. Cool.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully told solace of hope

Buddah Moskowitz said...

This is clear-eyed and wonderfully unsentimental.

Old Egg said...

I often feels funerals are not so much for the dead but those that are left behind, giving them that one last chance to express their thoughts and relive the memories of the deceased while they are still close at hand. In reality that person has not gone but still a part of them is still inside you and a part of you is with them as well.

Sumana Roy said...

I like the view on All Soul's Day that's to pray open-hearted for the dearly departed. The personal touch enriches the poem. The last three lines are my favorite.

Marja said...

Thank you for your personal and beautiful lines and the one which resonates with me most is;
"Nor did it climb or sink, but magically became what humans cannot yet conceive."

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

"hopped the twig" NEVER have I heard that euphemism before! The one that's commonly used today, "to pass away," just annoys me to no end. When my time comes, I will simply die. End of story.

Mary said...

Beautiful poem, Susan. We do need to come to terms with death. And one of the wonderful ways we do this, I think, is by celebrating "All Souls' Day" or as we call it "All Saints Day" (as we all are saints). Yes, we will live until we are called to go, but we do never know just when that will be. Whether at age 48 (as your friend) or 101 like your grandmother. Ceremonies are the closest we can get to bridging that great divide.

Intelliblog said...

We have created so many euphemisms because in so many cases even the idea of death and dying is one that instils fear into people's minds and hearts. Celebrating the Day of the Dead, holding wakes, familiarising ourselves with the reality of death robs death of its sting and we learn to live our life fully and usefully, accepting deathas the liberation it truly is. Well-penned, Susan.