Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Death - Midweek Post

I generally write on very innocuous topics that I can color with my sarcasm and irrelevance. As one of my few readers warned me, “it is hard to write with a smirk about a serious subject.” Not heeding that warning, I have elected to write about death, or at least my connection with it. Any humor detected is purely by accident and the result of me not being able to write any other way. This will also be my longest blog to date, insuring that no one will read it. I know I never read long ones. But the subject of death will cause me to ramble even more than usual.

I have been to eight funerals in my life. All deaths are tragic, but these are particularly horrid as the oldest was only 32 years old. When an elderly person dies you celebrate his life, but when a young person dies you mourn the lost potential.

My first real introduction to death was that weekend in Dallas in 1963, where, through my television, I witnessed JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald’s termination.

My first personal confrontation with death was the suicide murder of two boys by their father. They were neighborhood kids who I thought a nuisance, but whose mother thought enough of me to ask me to be a pallbearer. Evidently, they idolized me. Who knew? I don’t remember being particularly kind to them. Maybe I wasn’t and it was retaliation to make me bear the polls. I was not particularly close to the three classmates listed, but in a small town, a high schooler dying draws like a two for one sale. Everyone attends the memorial. They were important events in my life or I would not recall them so vividly.

All of the new millennium deaths listed were people much closer to me. And as an adult, I mourn for their parent’s loss and for my own. The world is not a better place without these young people and all could have been prevented. No parent should outlive his children. I cannot comprehend the agony their parents suffered and will always suffer. I spoke at two of the services. I felt I needed to. Though only one was a blood relative, I miss them all.

*Kevin & Joe Rush 8 and 9 years old – January 1967 Murdered by Father
Tom Brainard – 17 years old – December 1967 – Whirlpool Electrocution
Marilee Haddock – 16 Years Old - May 1968 Leukemia
Danny Deeder – 18 Years Old - April 1970 – Vehicle Accident?
Brandon Sova – 19 Years Old - August 2004 – Drunk Driver
Andrew Ott – 22 Years Old - October 2005 – Inhaling Dust-Off
**Kevin Thomas – 32 Years Old - December 2005 – Suspicious Circumstances
Jim Salter – 24 Years Old - April 2007 – Murdered

**My nephew, only relative on the list

You can see that I was able to pretty much avoid death for about 34 years or so. Well, that is not entirely true. All of my grandparents and both parents died during that span as well as untold relatives, but I attended no services. You would have to know my family to understand this shocking fact. I am not even sure when my grandparents passed. I just know that when we went to visit, they weren’t home. We lived in Idaho and they were all in Georgia and Florida (which you would know if you read my damned blogs). As you can guess, we were not a close family unit. I think I can remember instances where my folks would make a comment such as “hey Rick, your grandma died, pass the potatoes.” When my mother died I was stationed abroad in the Air Force and by the time the Red Cross notified me, she had already been cremated. It is not as bad as it sounds. I saw her a couple of months before her death and we had some closure. When dad died, I was present but at his request there was no service. He, too, was cremated and I carried their ashes with me for about 10 years before the deterioration of the containers forced me to find them a final resting place. I had wanted to scatter dad’s ashes inside Yankee Stadium (you would know he was a Yankee fan if you had read my damned blogs), but found out it was against about a million Bronx and Major League Baseball ordinances to do so. Evidently, they get hundreds of requests each year, so my idea was not original or doable. So, I found a beautiful spot in a place called Sinks Canyon, near Lander, Wyoming, where neither of them had ever been and had no connection to.

I spent 20 years in the military, so death was not totally foreign to me. I saw some things. But when it happens to a stranger you are not affected. Case in point. When I was in Junior High school we would often walk down to the city center for lunch. One of our favorite spots was a place called Dick and Floyd’s. It was a hellhole, often with passed out drunks from the night before littering the barstools, but they made a great milkshake. This was long before fake ice cream. When they still used the old ice-cold silver containers and gave you the extra when they filled your glass. You can see how disjointed my thinking is, when I can divert to milkshakes during a death blog. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. One day, we heard a loud explosion and we ran towards it (nowadays I would run away from it) to find that someone had self-tested his new shotgun in the alley next to the Coast to Coast store. We got there even before the crack Kellogg, Idaho police force. Grey matter was everywhere, body akimbo. We were mesmerized and by the time Barney Fife had dispersed us, we had witnessed enough for a lifetime of stories. But it did not spoil our lunch. On the contrary, the event gave us carte blanche to be tardy with no repercussions. We could be traumatized if we chose to. There were no bad dreams, night terrors, nor did I ever require therapy, but I had that in reserve should I have needed it.

I used to compute how many years I had left based on my current age vs live expectancy per actuarial tables. That activity would always result in depression and a panic attack. I am not nearly as afraid of death as I used to be. I am not sure why that is the case since I have not reached any viable conclusion on what happens after death. I think I have just come to terms with the inevitability of my demise. I recently had a serious cancer scare and faced with my mortality I think my greatest fear was not dying, but being forgotten. How is that for a narcissist view of death?


Pinehurst in my Dreams said...

Wow! What a lot of trauma to deal with at a young age. You must have learned to let any emotion bounce off and avoid settling on you. I am good during a crisis, but afterward I fall apart.

I used to fear death more when I was younger, and even after I became a Christian. Now, that my kids are "adults," I am not so worried about leaving them. I have assurance about my future in the afterlife because of my relationship to Jesus, now. I have seen and heard too many things to doubt His love and acceptance. (Many times He has taken the words of my silent prayer, and spoken them back to me through others word for word with the answers).

Anyway, I think the fear of being forgotten is common. I think we are created with a desire to be significant, because we are significant to God.

myrtle beached whale said...

Whether you are a Christian, Buddist, Hindu, or whatever, it is good to have a belief system that give you peace of mind. In general, whatever floats your boat.

raymond pert said...

I remember all the Kellogg deaths you mention and the guy who killed himself at Coast to Coast. I was in the 6th grade and found it pretty spooky. Mind if I add Tim Butler to your list, unless you were out of the Valley when he did in a car accident up the river. So did Wes Gunderson. There were others who drowned,like Doug Hollingsworth, but he was three years behind you in school and I don't know if you ever knew Jimmy Robinson. Enough of that. I often think of the Silver Valley as the Valley of Death, not only because of who died there, but because of the toxic atmosphere, the Lead Creek, the bare hills, and the danger of the work, as you well know.

myrtle beached whale said...

yes, I know there were lots of young deaths in our agegroup, but I either did not attend their funerals or had already left the valley. Bob Swift, Bruce Aldrich, Shelly Hill (Schonewald) to name a few.

Lucy said...

Well it was long but definitely worth the read. Does drinking a milkshake now shake you up? You have lived through and witnessed horror. I wish you knew how you reached this place of not being as afraid of death as you used to be. It is such a daily thought and fear of mine. You are right, being forgotten is probably what scares me most.

myrtle beached whale said...

Don't let me mislead you. I do not welcome death. I accept the inevitability of it. That does not mean I won't go kicking and screaming.

Sniz said...

I have to admit I don't think about death much, mostly because it hasn't touched my life much.