Thursday, August 18, 2011

My personal eulogy

Daniel Lennon was 85 years old when he died.
He is survived by his three children, Andrea, Teresa, and Steven.
He is survived by his five grandchildren, Melissa, Samantha, Matthew, Steven, and Joseph.
He will be missed by many.
The day to remember and honor him is taking place tomorrow.
An 8am wake followed by a noontime mass and ending with a burial.
I've never been to a funeral before, and only seen 1 person no longer living face-to-face.
Sure, a mixture of fear, nerves, sadness, and longing are at the forefront of my mind now, only to be heightened tomorrow when I'm staring death squarely in the eyes.
I've spent the past few days immersing myself in the world that Danny Lennon made and passed down from generation to generation.
My father and Auntie Teresa took me on a tour of Newton, or "The Lake," their old stomping ground, as they call it.  I got to see my roots, my history.  Where my father and his family lived growing up.  Where my mother and her sisters lived.  Their schools, their hangouts, their favorite places to eat.  Places like "Palace Pizza" and "Golden Stah" that don't exist anymore, but whose buildings are still standing.  I got to see where the yearly fair was held when Grampa would give em all $5 to spend on candy and rides - "That was big bucks back then, Sissy," Dad says.  The spot where Dad got bit by a dog or where Auntie Teresa had her first kiss.  The window that Dad used to throw rocks at to get Mom to come down and sneak out with him.  Things that ultimately don't matter in the grand scheme of things, but if not for them, who knows if things would be as they are now.
Grampa made a home, one that's lasted the test of time.  One where people know each other and when somebody from that neighborhood dies, you bet your ass everyone makes a point to come pay their respects.
Magni funeral home, the same people who took care of Grandma when she passed fifteen years ago, they're taking care of Grampa too.  They'll be buried close to each other and for the first time ever, I'll get to say Hi to Grandma and see that they are finally reunited after all this time.
Grampa, well at least how I knew him, was never a man of many words.  He lived a simple life, didn't complain much, and when he spoke, you'd do best to pay attention because what he had to say was probably something worth listening to.  He always had a bright smile for us when we'd (rarely) come to visit, and I always remember he'd be more than happy to give out a hundred hugs or have me sit on his lap and soak up as much of my attention as I'd give him.  His crooked smile and hearty laugh always followed his dry sense of humor, which he passed down to my father, and then down to me.  You could always see him with a cold beer and suspenders, eager to keep himself busy doing something around the house.
I wanted deeply to be able to say, "Hey Grampa.  It's good to see you, it's been a while."  Though that opportunity didn't work out for me, I will get to see him off to his final resting place.  A place where God will keep him safe until it's time for him to be reunited with Grandma.  A place where he's no longer suffering and we're able to remember.  I don't want to greive for him, I want to honor him.  Pay testament to the man he was, the family he raised, and the legacy he set out for the people who came after him.
This will be one of the three readings at Mass tomorrow and it helps put things into perspective for me.  I hope by leaving it to you for a read that it might help you too. 

Romans 14: 7-9
"For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living."

We love you always Grampa and you'll be missed deeply.  Thanks for existing so that I can now.  Thanks for making a family that I'm a part of.  I hope to be able to create a legacy of my own some day that matches the one you're leaving behind.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ceasing to Exist

Death scares me a bit.  Maybe it's because I'm only 23 and haven't lived a long, fulfilling life yet, and there are so many more things I wish to accomplish.  Or maybe it's because I value what I have as a living being and losing it all frightens the hell out of me.  In either case, whenever I think about dying, I have the urge to cry.  My heart beats a little faster, the hairs covering my body stand erect, and tears begin to form along my bottom eyelid.  I wonder, like all people do at some point in their lives, what happens when you're dead?  Is it really like going to sleep?  Will there be a white light or a vision of whatever God you believe in?  Will I become reincarnated in another person/creature/organism, and if so, is it immediate?  Will I remember who I was before?  Or... will I go to heaven or hell?  Is that immediate?  Does purgatory exist, a place for me to prove myself worthy of one or sentenced to the other?  Will I be able to look upon those mourning my death and hurt because I can't take their pain away?  Will anyone even be there to mourn me, or will I be forgotten?  Will I have left any sort of impression on the world that is no longer my home?

I'm mostly wondering these things, not based off a religious pondering, but a philosophical one.  Death is such a mystery.  No one can answer ANY of these questions.  There are those that have had near-death experiences, all of whom claim different encounters with "the other side."  And of course there's the sensatinalized version of death as being something so peaceful... but no one really knows.  More than likely, the reactions those people who claim to "see a white light" are having are simply side-effects of their brains either shutting down because it's been seriously injured or shutting down to preserve that which is left of them until they become conscious again.  Tons of neurochemicals firing in your brain as a reaction to outside stimuli or increased adrenaline.  Or, you think you're dying so you imagine what you think you're supposed to see and once you wake up, you chalk it up to being a chance meeting with the unknown when in fact you were simply out of it for hours, days, or years.

I dunno what to expect and I honestly don't spend much time worrying over it because it's not something I can control.  Sure I can eat the right foods, get proper exercise, stay away from alcohol and drugs... all those things can prolong life, but nothing can stop death from coming and wrapping its cold, dead fingers around you, squeezing until the life drains from your body and you cease to exist on this plane.  Nothing.  There's no elixir of life, no philosopher's stone, no fountain of youth.  Vampires and immortals don't exist.  Witches can't cast spells to keep you alive or chant incantations to bring back the dead.  As they say, the only thing guaranteed in life is death.  It's sad to think that we are simply living to simply die.  I oftentimes wonder what is the point in being born at all.  Though I do not believe in depression (yea I know, crazy right, but that's a discussion for another place and another time) I do ask myself the age old question of why are we here?

Now this is normally the part where I, the romantic drama writer that I am, would then say, we exist to love.  Or we exist to share our lives with one other person and experience everything that this world has to offer.  And while the hopeless romantic, fiction-lover in me does believe that, at this moment I'm simply left with a palpitating heartbeat, unsteady nerves, and an urge to become an alchemist so that my underlying panic about no longer living can be erased forever.

But then I wonder, why would I want to live forever?  I'd still have to ask myself what is the point in life?  After a century I'd assume I would've accomplished so many things that I'd get bored with my existence and find ways to undo whatever I did to live forever.  Then, the only guarantee in life would be... life?  No, this is where the person who wishes to leave some mark on the world says, the point in life is to make an impression.  Any impression no matter how big or small.  My mother, a hard-working, independent, high-school diploma bearing, blue-collar worker mother asks me all the time why she is on this earth.  And though it pains me to know that if the circle of life follows the usual course I'll see her die, I hate even more that she thinks she hasn't made an impact in this world.  I hope to do big things with myself.  Whether or not they actually come true is up to me, but knowing that she birthed me... brought me into this world to hopefully leave a mark... that's why I know she's left her imprint.  Of course she's done so in many other ways, not just by making two great kids.  Millions of people might not know her or what she's done, but enough people do that she will be remembered.  That's what we live for.  To leave a memory for someone else to be affected by.  To show others what they can strive for.  To help another person guide themselves through their own lives.  I haven't set my own bar as high as I have because I want fame or fortune.  No.  If I've only impacted a single person by the time I perish, that will have been enough for me.  I don't want recognition for what I hope to accomplish, I just want to know that someone out there is just a bit different for having read my work or known about me.  I may not be a glamorous actress or a crowd-pleasing rock star, but if I can touch the life of someone and help them find their own way, that will have been enough for me.  At least, that's what I strive for.  Sure fame and fortune would be grand, but who's gonna remember that when you're dead?  I might be wrong about all this.  There truly may be no point in life at all, but if that's the case, I'd think the suicide rate would be much, much higher.  I'd like to think there's life after death.  That perhaps life is a 100ish-year vacation from death, a chance to live-out (no pun intended) another path.  But, now we're just getting crazy with what-ifs and possibilities and if I keep pondering this post will never end, well at least not til I'm dead.

So knowing that... what do you think life is all about?