The Childhood Camping Trip and the Story of Finn McCool
When I was child I went on a camping trip with my father. One night, the smoke rising from the crackling fire we'd built, my father swallowed a gulp of some blue wine cooler and said, "Son, I'm going to play this song and I want you to think about it." I told him that I would, but he reiterated it as though I'd said nothing at all, "No, son, I want you to really think about it."
The Last Nine Months
have been an incredibly trying time for me with Kyle's accident and for my family because of similar, albeit not directly related reasons,. I don't say "my family and I" because I'm not sure it has actually been hard for me; it certainly has been a learning experience however.
In early February one of my uncles passed away and then, in March, my pseudo-grandfather1 passed away as well. While pretty much everyone else was emotional, I had basically no response whatsoever.
I imagine you're probably thinking something to the effect of "You cold, emotionless bastard!" The truth (or at least a portion of it anyhow) is twofold: I was simply too caught up in pondering death and all of the things we do in vain attempts to make the living feel better coupled with me not really knowing the guy (I’d only met him four or five times).
My father got out of his camping chair and made his way to his truck to change the CDs and blast the song into the smoke-filled night air. The song he put on was an interpretation of an old Irish fairy tale about the hero Finn McCool. Finn and his companions were out hunting and the weather turned sour and so to escape it they sought refuge in a house they stumbled upon in the woods. Thinking highly of themselves, they foresaw no problem convincing the owner to allow them to spend the night; when this old sprig of a man opened the door he wasn't particularly friendly to Finn and his group.
As you might guess they were startled by the old man's lack of hospitality towards them—after all, they were the highest heroes of all the land. So, they asked the man if he knew who they were or the things they'd done on behalf of Ireland; needless to say he wasn't particularly impressed. He told Finn and his men that they could stay the night if they'd just tether the white goat running around the place. Offended, but thinking nothing of tether a goat juxtaposed against their previous adventures, they agreed. Strangely enough, Finn wasn’t able to tether the goat, so the others in his party gave it a try.
I Didn't Attend My Uncle's Funeral
but I did attend my pseudo-grandfather's. To put it simply: he looked, sounded and acted like (from what I remember anyway) what my grandfather looked, sounded and acted like—and with good reason: JD was my grandfather's brother2 (I’m pretty sure that's something
damn near out of Deliverance. Interestingly—perhaps fittingly given the aforementioned awkwardness—his funeral wasn't so much about him, it was much more so about my grandfather and what wasn't about my grandfather was incorrect. The paster read directly from the eulogy printed on the funeral booklet. He botched reading it in several places stating that JD was born in Florida, that his former wife's name and his mother's name were both my grandmother's name et cetera.
Truthfully, it was like watching a funeral rerun because everyone who spoke did so as if it was my grandfather's second funeral. It was often mentioned how having JD around was like my grandfather still being alive or that they'd had a second chance with their father et cetera. It struck me as "off" while it was happening, but I didn't truly realize how little attention was paid to JD's passing until my sister mentioned something about it on our trip back toward Chicago. We talked a fair amount about the religious nature of the service because of how we were read a bunch of "feel good" passages from the bible and heard numerous times that "God took him to a better place..." and that "You should give yourself to Jesus so that you live forever...." All of this really made me question the importance of JD to the people present. Did they care about him? If so, why was his passing being used to celebrate the death of someone else? Perhaps it was that, given the situation they were doubly hurting and with such a weighty situation they didn’t know really what to do. Alternatively, maybe they genuinely felt they were doing the right by both of them.
Finn and Company's Failure and the Old Man’s Return
As the last man in the party gave up the task they were charged with, the most beautiful woman any of them had ever seen came into the main room. They were all stunned by her beauty and only one of them, Jermitt of the Love Spot (he had a spot on his head that would make women fall in love with him instantly whenever they saw it—somewhat like Medusa, but without the turning to stone bit) had the courage to talk to her. Being he a gentleman and wanting to give the woman a chance to make her own decision, he put on his charm thick, but nothing he did could get the woman to acknowledge him. He took off his cap and exposed the spot, but she ignored him still.
The men were all confused, angry with themselves and with the old man for not showing them the hospitality they expected and perhaps more so for the way in which he allowed the woman—his daughter they guessed—to treat them. As their grumbling died down, the old man came back to the room and commented that they'd failed at tethering the goat. As Finn tried to defend his group the old man walked right up to the goat and tethered him with ease and grace. Again the men were stunned for not a one of them was able to get within a few feet of the goat. At this point, Jermitt spoke up asking who the woman was and why they'd been treated so poorly and just how did he tether the goat so easily.
The old man said, "Her name is Youth and she wont speak to you now for none of you cared for her when she was yours. This goat is the World and none of you will be able to tame him, for only I can tame him and my name is Death."
My Sister and I's Conversation
reminded me of a quote from my sophomore year in college which I believe is in Herodotus's Histories, but it easily could've been from a Socratic dialogue or Montaigne's Essays. Unfortunately, Google couldn't find the quote and I'm not particularly interested in spending hours pining through thousands of pages to attribute it properly in a post. Regardless:
It doesn't matter what you do with me after I'm gone for I'll be dead! Do whatever makes you feel better about my passing.
All of this got me thinking about what I would want me funeral to be like (hopefully) some 70 years from now. And it's true, I won't be there to give a damn about it (those still kicking it should do whatever makes them feel better about it all), but for some reason I feel compelled to say I wouldn't want something like that:
- Make the thing about me
- Don't have it in a church or ball your eyes out because of me, instead go and get some drinks and talk about all the awesome shit I did and how you were involved.
- Move on, quickly. You're life is too short to morn the end of mine.
That latter point is perhaps the most importatn. This second, and all the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years to come; each and every one of us that is still here from second to second, minute to minute, et cetera ought to truly take advantage of that because any second now there might not be another one to follow.
We can't bind the world, but we can enjoy, appreciate and nurture the seconds we're fortunate enough to have.
That's a story for another time.
Okay, maybe that time is now.