Three selections from “The Wheel” (for a funeral)

A gracious Spirit sings as it comes

and goes. It moves forever

among things. Earth and flesh, passing

into each other, sing together.

Today I thought long and hard about whether to fly home this weekend for the funeral of an old friend. Whether it was possible, whether it was wise, whether it was what I wanted.

I imagine in “old days” whether to attend would have been an easy decision. Back then, I imagine, everyone understood the role of a funeral, and the importance of recognizing our finite existence. Death was the trump card. No one would ever question the desire to put it first.

These days, I don’t know. It’s quite possible that we’ve relegated death(!) to an afterthought. I want to say death(!) is not a pleasant thing to be around. And to all appearances it’s not pleasant to experience. So it makes sense that in a culture that has geared itself toward providing pleasure for profit, people would be reluctant to routinely engage death(!). Unfortunately engaging it in a routine fashion may be the only healthy way to deal with it effectively. Maybe the less presence it has in our life, the more we think about it. And we can never understand death, we can only acknowledge it or turn our back on it. If we ignore it though, when it comes and hits us 💥💣💥 we’re probably gonna have a difficult time reconciling what we knew, with what we now know.

And he comes into us helpless, tender

as the newborn enter the world. Great

is the burden of our care. We must be true

to ourselves. How else will he know us?

I know very little about Holy Spirit. I keep a mass market paperback dictionary near my desk. It tells me Holy Spirit is Holy Ghost. I don’t feel any further along, so I keep turning the pages. Holy Ghost is the third person of the Trinity.

Trinity    n.    Union in one divine being of the three persons of the Godhead: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost

I’m obviously not a Christian. I mean, I pick up my dictionary before I pick up my Bible.
I’m also not a Buddhist, or a Muslim. Or a Jew. Or a Hindu. Or a Sikh.

I tend to believe in the existence of a Spirit, but am skeptical of all our interpretations of said Spirit. So I don’t know if the Spirit I believe in is the same gracious one Berry refers to. I like to think it is.


Things have a way of becoming stale. Even the memory of people we love can become stale. Even our relationship to death, or our understanding of it, can become stale and need to be refreshed. I attended my mother’s funeral almost 12 years ago. I honor her passing every year by adhering to an eating regimen between the day of her death and Mother’s Day. And still there are so many times when my memory of how it feels to lose someone forever needs refreshing.

The services on Saturday, and the gatherings before and afterwards, are an opportunity to refresh our relationship to forever. That’s one of the reasons I’m getting so many text messages about getting drunk this weekend. Because that is as close as some of us can come to forever. I was raised without forever. When I was introduced to the concept, it scared me as much as it’s twin brother with a bad reputation: death. To this day forever scares me, but just pretending like it doesn’t exist, won’t keep it from coming for me. It already took my Mother. And many billions of more beyond her. Rod, Ennis, Sati and now, Adam.

In the day of his work

when the grace of the world

was upon him, he made his way,

not turning back or looking aside,

light in his stride.

I can’t pretend like death doesn’t exist. It’s there. Stoplights are there. Street signs are there. Bills come in the mail. These things happen. I can pretend like they don’t exist, but that doesn’t stop creditors from pursuing me and it doesn’t stop the police officer from writing me a ticket. As I’m driving through the streets I need to be aware of the stop lights, aware of the rules and regulations, without always being bummed about ’em. Without constantly pretending like they don’t exist. That’s for me. Those folks who wanna street race, break all the rules and shit, man, more fucking power to them. I hope the cops never catch them, and I pray they love every minute of that adrenaline rush. But again, that’s not me.


I seem to be not most things, which is probably true of all of us. Most of us are more than one thing, but no matter how many things one of us is, there’s always more things that we are not. That’s just the way it goes in a world this big.



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