Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G IS FOR GREAT SEND-OFF

My theme for A to Z this year is a wildly different, but very exciting, HERE'S TO YOU all month long. 26 posts to be precise. The most difficult part was narrowing down the 26. All of you deserve your own post. What you will find here is a post by the featured blogger, with traveling music chosen by me that complements said post, and two links. One will link back to the original post and the other to the main page. This year's A to Z is all about making new friends!

The Great Send-Off was written by the fabulous Dana Martin. Dana writes the blog Waiter, Drink Please! I discovered Dana's blog during the A to Z Challenge last year. I knew that we were going to get along like gangbusters from her profile information. She says, "I am Dana, a writer, editor, social media junkie, and a haunt mom living in the thriving metropolis of Bakersfield, Calif. I am a freelance writer for various magazines, a five-time contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul, president of Writers of Kern, and I own and co-own two amazing haunted attractions in California's central valley. When I earned my degree in English, someone said, "Wow, you just wasted four years of college for a degree you can never use." My response was, "It took me nine years, thank you." I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. My favorite pastimes are baseball, scary actors, and helping people achieve their writing goals."



Cue the traveling music:



THE GREAT SEND-OFF by Dana Martin
1/18/14

Attending a classmate's funeral taught me this

I read a blog post recently by a woman whose personal philosophy on death is to “always go to the funeral.” It’s for the family, she said. I agree. Today I attended the funeral of a man my age, and as I watched the shell-shocked, grieving family scan the standing room only crowd, my heart was glad I went. They should know that their son/father/brother meant something to people. He mattered.

I contend that the funeral served another purpose, too, at least a small one, for the high school friends who gathered there.

We’ve reached our mid-40s, my classmates and I, so funerals are starting to arrive with the frequency and reliability of the city bus. I made it through my 30s without attending as many funerals as I’ve attended these last 12 months. I get that, though. Parents and grandparents can’t live forever. But three of the four losses this year were for friends who were NOT supposed to be the guest of honor yet. We all have to go sometime, but I think most of us have gotten accustomed to expecting that we wouldn’t have to leave the party until our dance card was full.

And Jeff Burgess’ dance card was most certainly not full. Not by half.

Attending the funeral for a “young” person is like getting lost in a strange city—nothing feels good or familiar. You walk in, see faces you don’t recognize, and you don’t know what to say. You offer one another the partial, hesitant smiles of strangers squeezing past each other in a crowded store. Worse, you’re like that awkward birthday guest who shows up hours before the party. The balloons aren’t even inflated. You know you’re there Way. Too. Early.

That was the feeling today as my classmates and I looked at each other. “What are we doing here?” It was a strange phenomenon: We were glad to see each other again but hated why we were seeing each other again. As a writer, I observe, so standing in the rear of the chapel, this is what I learned today.

I learned that no matter how many years have passed, your brain doesn’t allow you to see your friends age. They all looked as they did when we were in school.

I learned that while high school wasn’t everything, it was special. Yes, we grew up, went to college, got jobs, families, and bills, but the one strand of community holding us together is the shared memory of that school on Galaxy Avenue.

I learned that it didn’t matter who hadn’t seen Jeff since high school or who saw him every day; every person at the service represented a piece of his life.

I learned that people are good. They wear suits, ties, high heels, and skirts and attend funerals on beautifully sunny Saturday mornings… and do it with willing hearts.

I learned that while paying respects, we were also paying a service…to each other. With every smile, every hug, every nod… a silent message passed between classmates saying, “Let’s stop meeting like this,” and “Let’s get together sooner,” and “Time is fleeting, let’s not wait.”

A lucky consequence of being at Jeff’s funeral was that it enabled us to gather as a high school family and say, “He was one of us… we will remember him together.”

Jeff was not there. I’m not even sure if he’s allowed to peek in on his service. I’d like to think he’s too busy reuniting with his daughter and grandparents and too mesmerized by the jaw dropping indescribable-ness of heaven to attend his own funeral.

But if he did go, I can imagine what he must have said: Thank you for the great send-off, and thank you for thinking I mattered. This isn’t the end. I will see you again.


Dana is a gifted writer who consistently offers up perspective on this old world. Every time I stop by her neck of the woods I leave just a little bit better of a person. May we all be so lucky to have that sort of impact!

49 comments:

  1. Lovely post, thanks for sharing Dana with us!

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  2. Great piece of writing by Dana.

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  3. Cool to meet Dana. I miss Bakersfield (and Cali, for that matter). :)

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    1. David, you know how it is with Bakersfield... you'll always be welcomed back with open arms. :)

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  4. Nice to see Dana get the honors today. I haven't been to many funerals in my life but it was mostly an issue of geography and ability to be at the ones I missed. There was one that was relatively close to me back in the 90's that I really wish I had gone to. Work was very busy and it was hard for me to get away, but still I wish I had done it anyway.

    Lee
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

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    1. I have missed a few funerals due to distance and work and JUNK. Now that I am older, I regret it in a way that I didn't before. When a life ends, we should take notice. It is like the John Donne quote,"Don't ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

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    2. Funerals don't ever seem to fall at opportune times. I think that's one reason I took notice of all the folks who'd dressed up and attended this funeral on a Saturday morning. I was sincerely touched for my classmate's family.

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  5. Nice post and great addition from Dana!
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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  6. An excellent post, thanks for sharing Dana, and thanks for featuring this post, Robin. I've recently lost a MIL, and even though she had been in a care home, she's the last of her family and the last grandparent for our daughters. We do have to mark life events. I usually have to write something about that person, the main things I want to remember, even if I only keep in my journal.

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    1. Sorry for your loss, D.G. Thanks for replying. Be well. ~d.

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  7. Very touching post and a reminder. I remember going to a classmates funeral three years after graduating from high school and although we lost touch after school it was hard. Now going to check out Dana's blog!

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  8. An inspiring post for Dana to be sure that contains so many truths that we don't always think about.

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  9. Sad occasion, but really like the positive way she ended it.

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  10. That was really very well-written. This is the most helpful A To Z I've ever seen.

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  11. I liked the last line. I hope we do get to see departed friends and family in the next life.

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    1. We absolutely will. That's the hope we have.

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  13. This is a blog I need to follow. She is absolutely right, funerals are for the family...you do like to know your loved one mattered. Especially when they go too soon. My brother died at the age of 46 and when the funeral home called and asked that we add another day to the viewing schedule because they were getting an overwhelming demand, it did make me feel a little comfort. There is strength in numbers, even in grief.

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    1. I'm sorry for the loss of your brother, Elizabeth. He left way too young. I'm glad my writing touched you, if even just a little.

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  14. My Lakota mother told me that dying was just changing worlds, the beginning of a new adventure. She was fearful as she lay dying -- for who wants to leave the one you love with all your heart for the dark unknown? But she was brave, wise, and caring til the end.

    The families at funeral have perceptions that are tunnel-visioned by grief. But they do need to know their loved one was cared about, that their loss grieves more than them.

    Elizabeth is right: there is some measure of comfort in numbers -- to feel you are not alone in the night.

    Thank you, Dana and Robin for this post.

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    1. You're welcome, Roland. Thank you for the comment.

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  15. That was wonderful - Dana's a brilliant writer. Thanks so much for introducing her here, Robin!! Going to find her blog now. :)

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    1. Thank you, Lexa. I love writing and am glad that what's in here (points to head) comes out well on here (points to screen). :)

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  16. Another great choice for the G. Dana is a very readable writer and a beautiful woman. I don't mind admitting that I would love to be as beautiful. Maybe a bottle of peroxide and a waist cincher would help me. Naugh.... those days are gone forever. Haha
    Death. At my age we live with it. They're dropp'n like flies every day. You just sorta make your peace and get in line. My best to you Robin and your dear friend Dana

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    1. Thank you for the kind words. Being a readable writer is about the best compliment you can give a writer. :) And thank you for everything else, too.... you sound like a lovely person.

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  17. I'm so choked up. I've been to so many 'too soon' funerals. I must check out Dana's blog.

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    1. Thank you, Susan. I should be back to writing again after Easter week. I hope to see you then.

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  18. excellent advice- and so true!

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  19. Great blogger to highlight, and such a well thought out post.

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  20. I love Dana's response when she was told that she had wasted four years of college earning a degree she could never use... ha! She put that person firmly in place! Education is never a waste. It involves so much more than simply studying for a particular qualification, and then using it in a specific field...
    Great insights about death/funerals...

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    1. hahaha! Thanks, Michelle! Right?!?!

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  21. Haunted attractions -- I think I will have to check them out one day! Very nice post on a sensitive subject, too.

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    1. Hi Steven. Yes! It's more fun than any one person should have doing their job. Long nights and hours right now as we prepare for Spring Scream... but it's always soooo worth the effort. :) Thanks for your kind words. ~d.

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  22. Very well done... but I still avoid them. Call me a coward, but I've seen enough of death.

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  23. I haven't attended any friends' funerals yet - knock on wood - but they are definitely for those left behind, part of the process of grieving. Great post.

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  24. I enjoyed this very much, thank you for sharing this piece. I'm 47, the past two years I've attended more funerals than I care to tell. It's sad and eye opening and a little scary, to say the least.

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  25. This is a very touching story. Though all funerals are tragic, when the deceased is our age or younger it really hits close to home. I'll have to drop in on the talented Dana soon.

    Julie

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    1. Hi Julie! Thanks for the kind words. I had to skip the A-Z challenge this year as I prepare for an event Easter week, but I'd love to reconnect and catch up with your writing, too. I hope you "drop in" on my blog very soon! ~D.

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  26. Everyone ~ thanks for showing up, reading, and offering your insightful wisdom on this difficult topic. Added thanks to everyone who chose to go visit Dana after reading this post. You will not be disappointed!

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    1. This is the best idea EVER for a blog challenge theme! Just think of all the great writing we are all going to get just by your choice in themes! You're amazing!

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  27. Robin! As I mentioned to you in email, YOU MADE MY DAY with this! I have been so busy with our Spring Scream event starting this Sunday that I haven't had time to participate in the A-Z blogging challenge this year. What I'm finding is that I miss reading everyone's posts as much as I miss writing them. THANK YOU for reminding me how much I love this project and that the pleasant by-product is meeting amazing writers like you (and the lovely bloggers who've visited me from your post). I LOVE the music you chose, too (she says as she pulls on her Ropers and jeans). Bakersfield is affectionately referred to as Nashville-West, so Mr. Strait is appropriate in more than one way. Thank you again. I'm entirely proud to have been featured on your blog.

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  28. That's why I go, for the family. They do need to know the person mattered.
    That being said, the most important person in my life, I could not attend her funeral. I went, I just didn't go in. I have no regrets.

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    1. No regrets is the most important thing. She knew your heart.

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  29. Interesting perspective on funerals in general and a lovely sentiment of your dear friend, Jeff.
    Myself I avoid funerals- too many memories of being marched up to view the body and then being stuck with that memory of a person I loved- bad makeup from someone who doesn't know them and how they really wear their hair or even just seeing transition lenses on my great grandfather, rather than his true spirit. Ok, so I still laugh a little at how much my gramps looked like Elvis in his casket with his transition lenses all darkened. ;)
    I will often attend a memorial to celebrate the life of a loved one. I have recently learned to find peace in conversing with a good friend at the site of where her ashes are. Besides, she has a lovely view of a lake there...
    The toughest deaths are never the physical ones it seems. So many I have lost are still physically here and yet their true essence is long gone. That's the hardest part and still I am learning to live with those as well. Nothing more that any of us can do. We must accept and move on. And celebrate the parts that are good. There is ALWAYS some good.
    Will definitely check out this blogger.

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  30. Thanks for sharing this. It is really good perspective of why funerals and / or wakes are important.

    I really like your idea of sharing different bloggers with us!

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  31. I learned that people are good. Same here. Sometimes I can't help but think our species is rotten to the core, but then I meet a couple of people - real or virtual - and I know that we all want to be loved and heard. And many of us want to be kind toward other people.

    I love the look of your blog.

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