Religion

What do you do the morning you return from your grandmother’s funeral?

0700: Our car pulls into my parents’ driveway. Yes, I’m in a car and yes, I’m back in Wisconsin. The woman who gave birth to my dad stopped living and that seemed reason enough to pause the Adventure. Pausing an adventure—what a very American concept, I don’t bother to think as we pull onto the gravel. Instead I think: I don’t want to unload the car; I do want to sleep; I need to do work. We just drove 16 hours back from Pennsylvania where the funeral was.

My grandmother, Mary King Jacob, at her wedding in 1946.

0708: Breakfast of chocolate-covered graham cracker cookies and, if I remember correctly, nothing to drink, not even water and definitely not coffee.

0712: Set to work on my laptop in my parents’ den. “Work” in this case mostly means procrastinating by checking online games, email, new photos of old friends on Facebook: anything that does not involve writing about a basketball player’s DUI after my night of driving through thunderstorms. I complete my work incrementally and in fits.

0822: Submit articles and an invoice. Accept that, as I’d feared, my brain is now firing way too much to sleep. Have a great idea for an art project involving women’s faces as they masturbate. Try to search for women’s masturbation faces without getting only porn. Fail. Wonder if my art project can truly be liberating and empowering and low-key erotic or if it will just be smutty. Am too tired to trust my judgment.

0831: Agree to go with my mom to her haircut appointment later. Maybe there will be spring rolls at the neighboring Asian market.

0836: Discover that my mom also intends to combine weekly groceries, liquor store stop, gas station, and bakery run with the haircut trip. Begin to regret my decision to come. Consider cancelling. Decide spring rolls are worth any tariff. I commit to being ready to go at 9:30.

0910: Mom begins the first of several knocks on my door, certain that I will not be ready at 9:30. I go back to sleep.

0935: I am not ready, but explain to Mom that this is because I’m looking for a cord for the iPod I gave her which will let her use it in the car. She is about as excited as if I told her I can get accessories for an iguana terrarium.

0940–1332: Long pile of errands. The Asian market does not have spring rolls. I cringe and read a book.

1344–1406: Drink four bottles of beer while eating as many slices of pizza. This is an alarming beer:za ratio but ends with a pleasant mild buzz. I eat cookies both before and after the pizza/booze orgy.

1432: Excitedly send off an email making Friday plans that involve pizza, beer and cookies because the hit machine will never stop, right.

1435: It’s somehow still cloudy and cool outside and I want to go for a walk, but it’s Thursday and I need to create a blog post because that’s my deal. Shit.

1439: Instead of creating something philosophic I hastily write a post using my dead grandma to prey on reader sympathies. She has been buried only 24 hours and this is already not the first time I’ve leveraged her death. I remind myself she (a) would understand and (b) is no longer around to understand or not. I focus my thoughts to exclude my recent swing of opinion toward believing there is no soul. That would make the meat of a real blog post, which this is not.

(But seriously, guys, there is no such thing as a soul and that makes the language of mourning over the past 48 hours ring absurdist and lip-bitingly innocent in my ears.)

Feel free to wax faithful or philosophic on your thoughts on the soul: I’m going for a walk (followed most likely by beer) and will be sure to respond in kind. But really, FYI there is no soul. The gods told me so.

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25 thoughts on “What do you do the morning you return from your grandmother’s funeral?

  1. I am sorry for your loss Drew. And I am interested to know the meaning behind this pause in your adventure, when it reveals itself. Or is it simply part of the adventure?

  2. I’m sorry for the pain that your family has gone through and I hope your grandmother had a peaceful, easy death and that she lived a happy, meaningful life.

    About the orgasm-thing – I know that there are websites that have recordings of people’s faces, but I do believe that they’re in the vein of pornography (with a similar intention).

    About the leveraging-your-grandmas-death bit – leverage is something that we use to easily convert a small amount of force into a much greater amount of energy. Stories are a form of leverage – people use narrative to give the metaphors and beliefs they’re conveying a greater depth and intensity. I sensed a certain amount of guilt about using your Grandmother as a piece in your story, and you know what, you’re probably a lot of emotions right now and they are all justified by your recent history, but– putting your Grandmother in this post gave it a greater intensity. Like you said, she probably wouldn’t have minded, and at this point she almost certainly doesn’t.

    Souls are beautiful things, whether they are or aren’t real.

    Keep going, Drew!

  3. Lynn says:

    Wow your grandma was a hottie. Totally stunning in that picture. Sorry for your loss and enjoy the pizza/beer while you can.

    Also: glad to know it’s inherent in mothers’ natures and not just my own to “just do one errand” which turns into 4 hours.

  4. Written in my list of morning predictions for each day of your journey so far, for July 19: “Frustrated, Stopped, Carried”

    Now I know why.

    I am shocked, flabbergasted, and bewildered you do not believe in souls.

    Now this throws me into grief. Then how can I know what I know about my own dead? Or about you? About anyone? If what you believe is true? I would only consider what you believe is true because I respect you and believe in you and this always gives me pause.

    Yet I believe in what I experience and in what the Gods share with me, too. I wonder why we are told different things.

  5. One thing last to mention: Orgasm is considered “the little death” and I find it very fitting that in the face of a relative’s death/funeral it no wonder you had inspiration about women’s faces as they masturbate. But why just women? Is that related to the creation of life somehow? A comparison to the moment of death? I know first hand what the face of someone who has just died looks like and it *does* look like that, but without animation.

    It is also no surprise you had a food orgy.

    Very common reaction while grieving. You may not be weeping, or even show any other signs of grief, but your mind and body react in such a way to relieve and remind yourself you are alive. Indulging in food and sex are two most common reactions to death. I know. I’ve been there. More times then I dare tell you.

    My heart goes out to you and wish I talk to you in person right now, if only to listen only to you. Yeah. To just listen to you talk about it all instead of reading you via blog.

    My next prediction for you: “Every stop part of the journey, another experience added to the adventure, nothing stops him, not really.”

  6. At one point in my health career I was assisting at births, and I would act as a labor coach for women who had no partners to do so. I can tell you that it would be hard for me to believe people have no souls. One night I was assisting at a home birth in a cabin in the woods with no electricity in a rain storm with thunder and lightening. There was a Dr. present for this birth. He was busy prepping the Mom ,and I was holding a lantern up so he could see. It suddenly seemed like a very sacred place in that rustic cabin as a beautiful baby boy was born. By the lantern light It was a rush to see the pink flush of life as he took his first breath in this world. The memory of that birth has stayed with me for the last 35 years and it profoundly affected me. It convinced me that our souls come into our bodies at birth from another existence. After that night I just knew. I can’t explain it but it was like some kind of revelation. I had been present at other births before and many after that but this one was different. You say the gods told you we have no souls. Well, that night in that cabin the gods told me we did.
    Sorry to hear of the death of your grandma. Now she is one of the mighty dead who will be watching over you as you go on your journey.
    Peace,
    Niniann

    • I was kidding about the “the gods told me” part. Poking fun at my own strange beliefs, where I pray to gods but don’t believe there is a soul.

      Not believing in a soul is new to me. For a long time I was agnostic about it. Before that I strongly believed in them.

      I’ll present my reasons for the switch in a future article. I expect you will find them unconvincing. Cold hard reason can’t compete with the stomach-punching emotional experience of seeing an infant come to life. But then, just because an idea is emotionally profound doesn’t mean it’s factually correct.

      I suspect we live in the century where advances in neuroscience will disprove the soul the same way advances in astronomy once disproved the geocentric universe. (I could be wrong.)

  7. Thanks for the kind wishes everyone. It was a beautiful chance to see the family gathered around and even meet some cousins I didn’t know I had. Plus, I learned where my adventurous streak comes from – the King family. Grandma’s maiden name was King and it is an Irish family. It seems all the adventurousness can be traced at least that far back.

  8. Hi Drew,

    I’m sorry for the loss of your grandmother. My respects to your parents and your sister as well.

    I agree with what others have pointed out about grief affecting us in weird ways, and I wonder if maybe there is an element of grief about the interruption of your Great Adventure. Even if your head knows it is necessary. More than one thing can be true at once.

    Hugs to you all, and here’s to the safe resumption of your travels.

  9. I don’t believe in them either… but I wish so hard that I could believe again.

    I try to take comfort in the fact that the world is just as beautiful as it ever was, souls or not. And I have begun to redefine ‘soul’ for myself as that part that lives after you die… in the world you leave behind. i.e, my grandpa may be dead, but his lessons and memories give me much strength still. I swear I only passed my hardest class in college after an imaginary consultation with him… “Now self, what would PaPa say about this?” In that respect, that part of him is still alive, so long as I’m here. I will try to teach my nephew about the forefather he never knew; maybe he can ‘live’ that much longer and lend strength to the next generation as well. Ah, the sacredness of stories.

    My sincere sympathies.

    Rest well.

    • Thanks AMG. I also think about the “soul” in terms of our genes and epigenes (the latter being what passes some level of experiential knowledge/conditioning from generation to generation). As I see the similarities between myself + my life with the lives of the ancestors who have come before me, I have to wonder how much of it is a recurrence of the same.

      Thanks for sharing that. I agree, the world is just as beautiful with or without. Or maybe, without souls, it’s scarier but even more beautiful.

  10. Mostly, you sound sleep deprived. LOL, but you did snag me there at the end. What does the existence of a soul or not have to do with grieving? Look, you can lay that puppy out any number of ways. There is no soul, why grieve? There is a soul, why grieve? There is no soul, grieve. There is a soul, why grieve? While I think people might argue some intellectual connections for grieving based on whether there is a soul or not, grief is not intellectual property.

    Dude. It’s about the relationship. It’s emotional property. Grandma’s death, or girlfriend’s break up, or esteemed co-worker moving away to be with spouse–they are about the relationship, the shared feelings and experiences, the person, what she said, how she said it, the stories he told, how he laughed, her odd little habits. They are now memory, and the passing of some sort of living relationship to memory is significant change that most of us need a little time to work through.

    BTW, there is a soul, but that has nothing to do with grief. Hope you got some sleep. :)

    • Well, it doesn’t directly have to do with grief. I decided I’m finally in the no-soul camp about a week before getting any news of my grandma, while meditating-while-biking one afternoon.

      What stood out at me is the language used to comfort everyone at the funeral. It was a Catholic service for a mixed family of mostly-Christians and all the language was about the beauty of Grandma’s lifelong faith and devotion; the joy of her soul returning to God; her getting to see those who passed before her (esp. her husband); and us getting to see her again someday, too.

      All that was very beautiful and reassuring to many people present, but it sounds more like a Stasi tactic if you consider that there is no soul and none of it is true.

  11. nickiofcourse says:

    I’m sorry. But I love this whole post. Funny boy. I am also sorry as I wondered what would happen to the Great Adventure if/when a “tragedy” (I’m not being callous by putting that in quotations but am still brain fried from the latest Mom Almost Died episode here) occurred, and now we see. Grief can be very bizarre indeed.
    Women’s masturbation faces?! Maybe your best bet is to find a willing girl. Or draw it yourself.
    When someone we love or care for stops living on this earth, there’s no telling what little things can sneak up on us. It’s often hard to see our parents upset and sad, the Missing can be a nightmare, someone will have to go through the person’s belongings etc. My own mom took a hard hit, the first ever, 8 months ago, and the grieving comes in stages for meI’ve found. It seems fairly bottomless as she is still alive and there is a glimmer of hope (?) that something close to normal could happen for her at some point in the future. But after each “this is the end” episode, I myself have an emotional hangover for a day or so. So weird.
    Anyway, it’s a strange thing to me, esp because we are “supposed” to be preceeded in death by grandparents, and then our parents. No matter how many times I tell myself that though, it doesn’t help.
    Acceptance and joy for them (for ME) is a constant, which does help somewhat (for ME) but clearly not all of us have the same outrageously delicious ideas about What Happens Next. :)
    Carry on. And draw us some faces of masturbating women!

    • hahaha thank you Nicki, and I’m glad the post was fun. It was meant that way. I am thinking of photography for the m-faces, though that will entail some pretty daunting recruiting. Hmm. Maybe craigslist is my friend here.

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