Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Everlasting Last Party

My Everlasting Last Party

(The following is one of the pieces I am writing to be collected into a
book of prayers. The name of the book is “Hey God ~ Can We Talk?”)

Hey God ~ I am wondering what will happen after I die. I don't want to cash in my chips any time soon, but I'm not getting any younger. I figure it’s probably not so unusual for people of a certain age to ponder life’s mysteries.

I don't wonder specifically about the hereafter, although if there is a heaven and if there is still any credit left on my tarnished gold card, I hope it will buy me a one-way ticket. But if reincarnation is what's up for me after this life, then please let me come back as a cellist. It sure would be nice to spread Yo Yo Ma music throughout the world.

I know I have to die before anything beyond the veil takes place so before that day arrives I want to make certain of a few things. For example, those I leave behind already know what a clotheshorse I am and that my love affair with shoes is legend. My people also know that I ain’t going nowhere looking tacky, even dead. Lord, please keep one of my good friends alive long enough to fix me up properly for my extended trip to wherever.

Many people have shared space with me during my brief stay on Planet Earth. Most of them I have loved with all my heart and they have loved me back. The others have basically put up with me and vice-versa. The burning question on my mind today is this: will any of them show up at my farewell party to say a few kind words?

I went to the funeral of an acquaintance not long ago and a bunch of beautiful things were said about her. I was seriously surprised. If I had known she was such a saint, I'd have been a little nicer to her while she was stabbing me in the back.

I hope a few mourners will shed tears after I'm gone, but what if they don’t? What if they sit in the back of the room playing Angry Birds on an iPhone or worse, what if they just sit there Tweeting? 

What will people say about the kind of person I was?
          She was nice?
          She loved her family and tolerated Republicans?
          She had a soft spot for cats?
          She was a pretty good writer when she put her mind to it?
          She wrote prayers when writer’s block zapped her creativity?
          She was seriously into shoes?

Will anybody think to say that I made some hard choices in my life for which I spent years and years trying to forgive myself?

Will they mention that on days when words flowed from my brain through my fingertips and onto my keyboard, I was as One with You as a human is capable of being? Would they think to say that I loved learning but that every time I learned of man’s inhumanity to man, it broke my heart and left me bereft for days?

Please, God, don't let anyone say a bunch of ugly things about me at my last party. I hope no one will be so crass as to recall that I was selfish, pig-headed and impatient. I can think of a few girlfriends who would delight in getting in the last dig. I’m pretty sure I’d be too exhausted from climbing Jacob's ladder wearing my 5-inch high heels to respond with, Back atcha, Bitch!

Mark Twain said, Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Before my time comes, God, will You help me be a kinder person so that the undertaker won’t be the only person who’s sorry that I died?

Thank you for listening, God.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September Song for a Butterfly

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you
it’s going to be a butterfly.” — Buckminster Fuller

Several years ago, a very dear man, a poet I knew, left this world. I woke up thinking about him today, recalling the day we met.

He and his wife were at the same writing workshop I was attending. I noticed them both because there was a shine surrounding them, like a patina, and I found myself staring at them until my curiosity could stand it no longer.
I turned to my friend Mary. “Tell me about those two people sitting on the front row.”
“That’s B.C. and Vida Cole.” She rolled her eyes letting me know that anybody with a lick of sense would have known that. Mary’s facial expression always say a mouthful.

“They’re a permanent fixture around here,” she added. “They drive down from North Carolina every year because this is where they met and fell in love. Isn't that the most precious thing you ever heard?”

B.C. went to the podium and began reading one of his poems. It was humorous and we all giggled. B.C. talked like he laughed—as if his vocal chords were constricted. He twanged his “A’s” like hill people often do. When B.C. said something that began with an “A,” it came out flat, like “that fat cat.” 
I later learned that he loved to tell tall tales on himself. I once heard him say, “Last week Vida said to me, ‘Go look at yo’sef in the mirror, B.C., ‘cause you got chocklit ice cream stuck in your mustache.’ It was dripping off my chin onto my new shirt that she had paid a whole bunch of money for. So I said, ‘That would make a right good story.’ Haw. Haw.”

B.C.’s laugh, if not always his tall tales, was infectious.
He sported thick muttonchops that curved around his long face. Those sideburns suited him because they framed a ruddy complexion that turned a deeper red by the time it reached his pencil-thin nose. Every time B.C. smiled, that nose of his joined up with his lips and crawled up his face like the two were in cahoots, as indeed they were.

Grinning, he would take an index finger and push his silver rimmed glasses back up to where they belonged. He did that a lot because he smiled so often. I never heard B.C. whistle, but I always expected him to stride unhurriedly into a room with his lips poised in whistle-mode tweeting like a canary. Happy, contented men always whistle.
B.C. didn’t wear bright pink trousers, he headlined them. His royal blue suspenders topped off a black Polo shirt that was buttoned up to his chin. The Polo shirts he wore were probably the only concession to popular trends he ever made. B.C. Cole was way past caring about fashion statements because he made his own declarations and he made no excuses.
You have to admire a man like that.
He was a born romantic with an innate sense of how to make his woman feel special. It seemed as if he wanted to touch Vida as often as possible, if only with an occasional tap. I watched him as he listened to the lyrical words read by another poet. After a bit, he leaned in close to Vida until his smiling face brushed her silver hair, just behind her ear. Pretty soon, not hurriedly or without thinking, he kissed a little section of her hair. It was so gentle that Vida, accustomed to his loving ways, barely blinked. But she noticed.
Their devotion to one another stretched beyond their years as man and wife. Like Blue Boy and Pinky, one of them was incomplete without the other.
When Vida lost her hearing, B.C.’s ears became her ears. Much like the tender kiss he often gave her, Vida scarcely noticed the transition—it’s possible that neither of them was conscious of her hearing loss. They functioned as one finely tuned, well-oiled piece of people machinery, the kind that automatically slides into place at the first sign of a glitch. B.C.’s old eyes became weaker toward the end, but even with poor vision, he could see beyond hearing loss or time ticking away.
He was a special man whose loving ways provided him with a grin that emerged from a cocoon spun of joy. That grin crawled like a caterpillar across his innocent, child-like face to morph into a laugh that might have come from a butterfly— if butterflies could laugh.